The Couch Trip (1988) / Comedy
MPAA Rated: R for sex references and language
Running Time: 97 min.
Cast: Dan Aykroyd, Walter Matthau, Charles Grodin, Donna Dixon, Richard Romanus, Mary Gross, David Clennon
Director: Michael Ritchie
Screenplay: Steven Kampmann, William Porter, Sean Stein, Walter Bernstein
Review published February 10, 2003
Dan Aykroyd (Dragnet, Ghostbusters) had played a variety of characters up to this point in his career, with lots of memorable ones among them, but he had never played the kind of smart-ass that he does in what would be his last decent starring role in The Couch Trip. That's because these roles almost always went to his "Saturday Night Live" cronies Bill Murray and Chevy Chase. However, he seems to have observed and learned from the quite well, as his deadpan delivery and off-the-wall asides makes this one fun for...well, the first hour or so.
Aykroyd plays John Burn, a resident in a Chicago mental institution who has a penchant for getting into trouble through his crazy antics and inability to listen to authority. Dr. Lawrence Baird (Clennon, The Thing) if the head of the facility, a man convinced that Burn faked his insanity to keep out of prison, and now he intends to send him there due to irreconcilable differences. Dr. George Maitlin (Grodin, The Woman in Red) is the nation's leading radio psychiatric guru, but he seems to be having a breakdown himself. His handlers decide to find a cheapie on-air replacement in Baird, but the request has been diverted to Burn by mistake, and when he escapes from the institution, Burn assumes Baird's identity, resulting in a helpful shrink who may be crazier than the people he is trying to assist.
The Couch Trip is adapted from the book by longtime television writer, Ken Kolb, and the screenwriters were fresh from the experience of their funny Rodney Dangerfield vehicle, Back to School. They succeed in delivering good characters and decent chuckles in what could have been a modestly winning script, but what had been built up with success, loses its way once Burn's gig is up. From then on it becomes a misguided comedy of errors, later culminating itself into a corny chase flick, and finally descends into sheer absurdity during the botched climax.
The Couch Trip is right on the edge between being a good film and a bad one, but I'm going to give it a modest recommendation for Aykroyd's performance, and enough funny moments to make it worthwhile. It's too bad the comic energy ran out of juice before it was done, as this could have been a nice surprise classic comedy. Sadly, Aykroyd would also run out of comedic juice after this one, churning out the some of the worst comedies over the next few years, disproving the old saying, "Everybody loves a fat man."
©2003 Vince Leo