by Kaitlin Lyle
“Without a Paddle” succeeds in satisfying the basic elements to a hilarious story: take a trio of idiots, put them in the middle of nowhere to fend for their lives and sit back and enjoy the show.
Childhood friends Jerry, Tom, Billy and Dan have dreamed about searching for the lost treasure of the legendary epithet D.B. Cooper, who disappeared into the wilderness after jumping from a hijacked aircraft with the sum of $200,000.
Following graduation, each of them set off to find their lives, only to reunite when Billy is killed in a parasailing accident. After the funeral, the remaining three explore their old tree house to find that Billy has left behind the adventure that they had neglected to carry out as a group. Having pinpointed the coordinates and carefully researched the story, the late voyager Billy has left them a map that will ultimately lead them to finding Cooper’s missing treasure.
Determined to have one last great adventure in memory of their friend, they set off on a canoeing trip with Billy’s map in hand; and from that moment on, the trip begins spelling out disaster in every way possible.
Before the “Hangover” franchise found its way onto the big screen, the trio of “Without a Paddle” manages to present uproarious, yet relatable characters as they navigate through the setbacks posed by the great outdoors.
Through their side-splitting dialogue and individual quirks, each of the actors shine in offering a range of three unique characters. Matthew Lillard’s Jerry is a perpetual dreamer, the closest friend to the late Billy, who prefers living in the moment over the responsibilities of reality. Dax Shepard’s rebel Tom is a Harley-riding wiseass with an adventure streak that matches his quick tongue in defying all limits. Seth Green’s doctor Dan is especially lovable as the redheaded hypochondriac who tags along for the ride all while citing his fears, much to the amusement of his friends.
When put together, each actor’s personality and brand of humor serves as a set-up that complements the others’ throughout the duration of the film. The comedy comes with an impressive soundtrack made up of relatively unknown musicians — 38 Special, Blind Melon, Faces — that sets the pace for an epic adventure of outrageous proportions.
The jokes range from gross-out laughter to quips that generate a double-take, and the dialogue is crafted to match the whims of daily life to unbelievable situations for a guaranteed chuckle every couple of minutes.
One particularly memorable scene involves finding ways to survive a grizzly bear attack that ends with the mother bear “adopting” Dan as her cub, much to his terror and our amusement.
From escaping violent pot farmers to stumbling upon a pair of bodacious tree hippies, by film’s end, the trio not only finds themselves caught in the midst of an adventure worth talking about, but also in the understanding of both life’s value and the triumph of childhood friendship.
With its comically crafted dialogue and characters to bring its written laughter to life, “Without a Paddle” presents itself to Netflix viewers as a great film recommendation as well as clear instructions on what to avoid doing on a camping trip.