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Life's A Trip
cast: John C. McGinley, Paul Hipp, D.B. Sweeney, Janet Gretzky, and Ed Harris

director: D.B. Sweeney

87 minutes (15) 2006
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Metrodome DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Mark West
Mark Hewson (John C. McGinley) and his friends Billy (D.B. Sweeney) and Jason (Paul Hipp) are thirty-somethings living in Pennsylvania, all at dead ends with their lives, families and jobs. Mark is heavily in debt with local loan sharks, one of whom breaks into his house on the day that his father dies, and this acts as a wake-up call to all of them, that if they don't do something soon, it's all over. That something turns out to be tickets that Jason wins at work, for seats at an American football game in Florida. The three old friends take off on a road trip, which has its ups and downs until they reach Florida and attempt to start new lives at New Year, when long-held tensions finally come to a head.

That, pretty much, is it and Life's A Trip (aka: Two Tickets To Paradise) is one of those films where your enjoyment depends on a) how much you can relate to the characters; b) whether you like your films full of talk or action and c) whether the actors are any good. I enjoyed it. Certainly, it's not a film without problems (the sound, mainly and some of the plot progressions feel a bit forced), but it is a film with an abundance of charm and obvious passion from Sweeney, who also wrote and directed.

The milieu is captured well, as is the despondency of the characters, whose lives and problems unfurl as the film goes on, with McGinley taking most of the screen-time as a failed college football star who has essentially thrown everything away. The road trip is a diversion, it's all about seeing people accept who they are, accept how the impact on others around them and what they can do about it.

Structured quite loosely, some sections feel like a series of skits and sketches that have been strung together, but it's never less than watchable - from the definition of 'scrudge', to Billy finding out his wife's secret lover was a band of his band; from the manky sheets in a hotel room, to the McGinley's priceless "midgets couldn't drown in this" comment. Some bits didn't travel - I know of Vanna White, but not what she's famous for - and I was looking forward to Ed Harris (prominently billed and heavily featured on the cover art), but he only has a tiny cameo as an almost supernatural carnival operator. The pathos is well handled, as is the humour and it's quite refreshing to see characters look this worn out and worn down without them being addicts of one kind or another (gambling excepted). This is good fun, well made and smart and is definitely worth a look.

Just as an aside - since getting this gig, I've paid more attention than usual to posters and cover artwork as I often have no idea what a film will be before I sit down to watch it. This, more than any other, has the weirdest connection between film and advertising. I'm not sure who the girl is, McGinley's picture is obviously Dr Cox from Scrubs and not from this film, Ed Harris is centre-stage but appears for less than five minutes, and Paul Hipp doesn't appear at all. Also, Ed Harris is shown driving the red car with smoke coming out of the grill - he doesn't go anywhere near to the film's blue car, which doesn't break down at all. And the explosion is from a funny little set-piece and not representative of the film at all.
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