You don’t know the name Steven Brill, but you should. He’s the reason so many movies suck. He wrote “Ready to Rumble,” the atrocious David Arquette wrestling comedy from 2000, and he directed Adam Sandler in “Little Nicky” (which he also wrote) and “Mr. Deeds.” His latest crime against humanity is “Without a Paddle,” an unfunny, outrageously simple-minded adventure-comedy that irritates, offends and bores, all at once.
Check out the pedigree on this thing. Its absurd story is credited to three people: Fred Wolf (writer of “Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star,” “Joe Dirt,” “Dirty Work” and “Black Sheep”), Harris Goldberg (writer of “The Master of Disguise” and “Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo”) and Tom Nursall (writer of nothing you’d care about). Then the actual screenplay is by Jay Leggett and Mitch Rouse, who co-wrote (with Rouse directing) “Employee of the Month,” one of the worst films to play at the Sundance Film Festival this year, or any year.
Anyway, everyone continues to do lousy work here, and they drag the usually enjoyable Seth Green and the potentially enjoyable Dax Shepard down with them. (Matthew Lillard, who rounds out the cast: Eh, this seems about right for him.) The three play lifelong friends who, upon the death of their fourth friend, decide they must, in his honor, embark on an Oregon river trip to find the lost treasure of D.B. Cooper (the man who parachuted out of a hijacked plane with a huge pile of stolen cash in 1971). Seems the late Billy had been compiling evidence and folklore up until his death, and had worked up a map that he thought would lead right to Cooper’s landing point. What better way to celebrate the memory of a dead friend than to discover an old felon’s stash?
A river trip through rural territory naturally means many (too many) references to “Deliverance,” and “Without a Paddle” meets expectations in that regard. The rest of their adventures are typical of outdoor comedies. There’s a lame encounter with a bear, who swallows their cell phone and later poops it out; run-ins with hillbillies and hunters; and a devastatingly tasteless scene with two gorgeous tree-hugger girls who keep their feces in brown lunch bags, which they subsequently drop on the heads of the redneck bad guys who are chasing the three friends.
Yes, this is the kind of movie where the centerpiece scene involves dropping poop on people’s heads. If that doesn’t discourage you from seeing it, I can’t imagine anything else I can tell you will.
Shepard’s character is named Tom, and he’s the crazy, irresponsible friend. Green is Dan, the uptight businessman who needs to cut loose and have fun more often. Lillard is Jerry, the professional with the suffocating girlfriend whom he learns to appreciate in the movie’s most inane, unnecessary subplot. You are the viewer, pummeled with tired jokes and zany situations, bored by yet another dreadful comedy.
F (1 hr., 30 min.; )