Up the Creek
On one hand "Without a Paddle" is a good movie, well good if what you are after are simple laughs from 3 childhood friends going on adventure fuelled by set piece gags. But on the other it is disappointing because it delivers up the same sort of juvenile, often lame humour which you can see coming a mile off. So depending on what you are after will affect whether you enjoy "Without a Paddle", simple as that. But there is one other thing and sadly another disappointment because after quite a reasonable start which sets up these 3 friends returning home for the funeral of their old buddy it ends up wasting the opportunity to genuinely deliver a mix of comedy and soul searching because it has the potential to do so.
Billy, Dan, Jerry and Tom grew up together and whilst going their separate ways still stayed in touch. So when Billy dies the remaining 3 return home for his funeral and to revisit their past up in the tree house where they played and planned adventures as kids. What they discover is that Billy had worked out where the treasure belonging to airplane hijacker D.B. Cooper was and so to honour their best pal the 3 remaining friends set out on an adventure to follow his map through the wilds to locate the lost treasure.
So in many ways "Without a Paddle" is unoriginal because after a decent start where we watch Billy, Dan, Jerry and Tom have childhood adventures, acting out there favourite movies and so on it becomes a formula movie. That formula is following Billy's funeral the remaining friends who whilst older haven't really grown up go on an adventure, do some bonding and also some soul searching. It's been done before, think "City Slickers 2" and you have the same sort of thing, but there is nothing wrong with that as it is a storyline which works.
Unfortunately whilst we do get some bonding, some soul searching and some nostalgia as Dan, Jerry and Tom reminisce about the past the focus shifts to be predominantly on the humour as they try and track down a lost treasure and complete Billy's plans. Now when you get 3 slightly immature men in the wild, be it in the woods or on a canoe you are going to get certain jokes so when they have an encounter with a bear, well it's not really a shock, nor is it when they end up flying over a waterfall. It is why "Without a Paddle" is a little disappointing because many of the jokes end up being routine in the wilderness gags with nothing added to them to make them seem new or different.
Alongside this in the wilderness humour you also get a strange mix of stoner gags and "Deliverance", basically two pot growing hillbillies hunt down are trio. So you get drug gags mixed with the inept attempts of the hillbillies to catch them and again much of it is obvious, but not just obvious stupid as well. It is definitely low brow humour and if you're not in the mood for stupidity and juvenile gags then you are going to end up being disappointed especially as the set up really establishes the potential for some funny soul searching.
As for he acting well the trio of Seth Green, Dax Shephard and Matthew Lillard work well together, they deliver the laughs and in the case of Lillard a touch of soul searching but it is little to write home about as is the small role for Burt Reynolds who doesn't do much at all. In fact it is Ethan Suplee and Abraham Benrubi as the inept pot growing hillbillies who end up delivering the best laughs especially during the initial chase scene through there field of ganja.
What this all boils down to is that "Without a Paddle" is amusing if all you want is some obvious gags about 3 friends getting into trouble in the woods. But for anyone who wants more, original humour and some soul searching will be left wanting.