Guilt Trip (2012): Streisand, still Superstar, but the Material….

At 70, Barbra Streisand still commands the screen with remarkable ease and abundant charisma. She looks terrific and is so light on her feet that you wish she chose a better vehicle than the fluffy and routine comedy, “Guilt Trip,” for her big comeback. You see Streisand has not played a leading role in 16 years, since the terrible “The Mirror Has Two Faces,” which she had also directed.

Three decades ago, Streisand made her debut as a director in “Yentl,” in which she also starred, as well as served as co-writer and co-producer. It was a happy occasion for all concerned: Director Streisand has given star Streisand her best part since “Funny Girl,” her 1967 Oscar-winning performance that made her an international star.

As the most “bankable” female star of the 1970s and 1980s, Strisand has wanted to make this movie for decades, ever since she first read Yentl, the Yeshiva Boy,” Isaac Bashevis Singer’s story, which had been done as a stage play on and off Broadway. The movie was a labor of love, marked by emotion that suffused every frame, and by unparalleled commitment. After “Yentl,” expectations were high of Streisand the director and the star.

Over the past decade or so, she all but disappeared from the screen as a director or star (but not as a recording and performing singer), assuming a supporting role in the mindless but popular “Fockers” franchise. And now comes “Guilt Trip,” which again sees her as a qvetching yenta, this time around, as the annoyingly domineering mother of Seth Rogen, a part she could have played in her sleep.

Set during the holiday season, the scenario, written by Adam Fogelman and directed by Anne Fltecher, centers on a young bright guy, Andy Brewster (Seth Rogen), who decides against his better instinct and saner judgment to invite his widowed mother, Joyce Brewster (Streisand), for a road trip, a lengthy cross country.

As expected, during the 3,000 miles and eight days of shifting American landscape, Andy is by turns flummoxed, freaked out, analyzed, annoyed and lured into one anxiety-cranking situation after another by his loving but nudging mom.

As Andy Brewster, Rogen is well cast as a struggling young inventor searching for a lucky break. As his mother Joyce, Streisand is a pesky parent and vibrant widow ready to unravel her lonely lifestyle. When they come together in the front seat of a sub-compact, with years of family habits and secrets between them, the experience shakes up both their lives.

Predictably, the farther they go, the closer Andy get to realizing he has more in common with his charmingly monstrous and monstrously charming Mom than he had ever imagined. Moreover, as they approach Andy’s destination, it turns out that his mother’s unsolicited advice might be just what a down-and-out guy like Andy, basically a loser, needs in order to turn his life around.

Anne Fletcher, who has previously directed the awful romantic comedy, “27 Dresses,” and the barely adequate if commercially successful “The Proposal,” which benefited from the star power of Sandra Bullock, is not a particularly subtle or even technically proficient director.

Fortunately, there is good chemistry between Streisand and Rogen, but the material is so lame, so innocuous, and so old-fashioned (a sitcom of the 1950s or early 1960s), that you often feel embarrassed watching and listening to it.

Essentially, “Guilty Trip” is an updated version of numerous Yiddish-speaking plays revolving around a well-meaning but suffocating matriarch you love to hate, one of the oldest stereotypes in Jewish culture.

Please, please: Would anyone write a decent script for the vastly talented Streisand and convince her to do it?

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