Barry (Tom Green) will be your tour guide around the University of Ithaca, but some of the potential students are finding his knowledge of the establishment somewhat lacking. To distract them from his ignorance, he decides to spin a yarn about a fellow attendee he knew, which he guarantees is the greatest story they will ever hear. It all began with Josh (Breckin Meyer), who was devoted to his childhood sweetheart Tiffany (Rachel Blanchard), but now they were at separate universities he worried the relationship might not last. Therefore he would send her videotapes, which landed him in all sorts of trouble...
Or rather, one videotape in particular landed him in trouble, because Road Trip took the format of an urban legend as the jumping off point for a selection of dubious laughs, many of which were pretty funny. This was one of the wave of Hollywood comedies that happened along in the wake of the worldwide success of American Pie, which adopted the formula of the eighties sex comedy and updated it to the turn of the millennium, mainly by defusing what had previously been open to accusations of meanspiritedness - we're looking at you, Porky's. The basic components were present and correct, but there was a mellowing of attitude in these works.
So while there continued to be the nudity, the sexual humour, the regular humiliation of the characters, a goodnatured mood pervaded the hijinks as if the filmmakers were looking down on the boys and girls they featured with a benevolent eye. Not everyone responded to that, tending to lump these in with what had gone before - basically the kind of thing critics liked to make clear was never meant to be high art, and oh how they suffered for watching them on our behalf - but Road Trip was a cut above for those who appreciated what director and co-writer Todd Phillips was trying to do. Which was offer up some unpretentious giggles and gross out humour, the stock in trade for comedies of this type.
Well on his way to Hollywood success with his style of humour, Phillips assembled a willing cast of straight ahead personalities, oddballs, and oddballs masquerading as straight ahead. The reason for the trip of the title is that Josh is seduced by fellow student Beth (Amy Smart), after an uncommon amount of plot setting up as everyone gets distracted by the gags, but unfortunately for him she opts to record their liaison on his video camera. The next day, roommate Rubin (Paulo Costanzo) accidentally sends that tape in the mail to Tiffany instead of the one with Josh folk singing, and there lies the heart of the story: get that tape back, intercept it, do whatever they can to stop Tiffany seeing it.
On the face of it the four friends who journey to Austin do act reprehensibly, but there is always an excuse for their behaviour so that we are not put off them and recognise they are acting for the benefit of tickling our funny bone. The cross country formula is a solid one for comedy, so solid that it's surprising it is not used more often, as you can have the main characters encounter all sorts of weirdos and comic potential set ups, allowing the writers to let their imaginations fly. So here they wind up in an all-black fraternity house after lying that they are part of the same organisation (our heroes are all white), where the nerdiest of the company Kyle (DJ Qualls) loses his virginity when nobody else gets any, and at a sperm bank to drum up some quick cash where the wiseacre of the group E.L. (Seann William Scott) discovers a new way of getting off. Stuff like that, linked by Green's distinctive antics, will either amuse you or have you rejecting it all out of hand, but it is funny enough for most. Music by Mike Simpson.
Former documentary-maker who made Hated (about depraved punk legend GG Allin) and the controversial, little-seen Frat House, before moving onto mainstream Hollywood comedies like Road Trip, Old School and Starsky & Hutch. The Hangover was one of the most successful comedies of its year, and he sequelised it in 2011, directing road movie Due Date in between.