RV (United States, 2006)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

A sample of questions that floated through this reviewer's mind while watching RV... Is the name "Big Rolling Turd" supposed to apply to the RV or the movie? Where's Chevy Chase when you need him? And, considering all the movies not being shown to critics this year, why did the studio choose this one to subject us to?

Have you ever been at a party where a guy starts telling a long-winded, unremarkable story? He thinks it's so hilarious that he guffaws his way through it. The problem is, he's the only one who thinks it's funny. One or two moments might be worth a chuckle, but the thing as a whole is a bore. You want nothing more than to find a reason to get away from this guy and look for someone - anyone - else to mingle with. RV is that story, and Barry Sonnenfeld is the storyteller.

On the strength of some of his earlier efforts (Get Shorty, Men in Black), I was willing to forgive Sonnenfeld Wild Wild West and Men in Black II. But this going too far. RV is the ultimate road trip insult - a National Lampoon's Vacation comedy minus the Griswolds, with Robin Williams standing in for Chevy Chase. I never thought I would write something like this, but Williams' performance pales in comparison with what Chase might have done with the role. At the very least, we wouldn't have been subjected to the saccharine ending that is becoming the trademark of every movie featuring the neutered Williams.

To avoid losing his high-profile job, Bob Munro (Williams), cancels his family vacation to Hawaii and instead decides to take a road trip to Colorado with his wife, Jamie (Cheryl Hines), daughter Cassie (Joanna 'JoJo' Levescue), and son Carl (Josh Hutcherson). This, not coincidentally, will put Bob at a destination within a few miles of the place where his boss expects him to give a vital presentation. To make the trip, Bob rents an oversized RV with failed parking brakes and a stopped up sewage system. His family embarks upon the nightmare trip with little enthusiasm.

After a rest stop episode with sewage and fecal matter - as apt a metaphor for the film as any - Bob meets another RV family: the Gornickes - Travis (Jeff Daniels), Marie Jo (Kristin Chenoweth), Earl (Hunter Parrish), Moon (Chloe Sonnenfeld), and Billy (Alex Ferris). These five are homeless, living their lives out of their bus. Their kids are home schooled and their vehicle plays the first eight notes of the Star Trek theme any time the horn is pressed. Daniels proves that you don't have to be Randy Quaid to play an annoying interloper in a bad road movie comedy.

To be fair, RV starts out okay. The first ten minutes contain a few mirthful lines. But the film tips its hand during a painful sequence in which Bob struggles with his seatbelt. This scene goes on forever and isn't remotely amusing. And it gets worse from there. The occasional zinger thrown out by Cassie isn't enough to overcome the toxic cloud of cinematic badness that is Geoff Rodkey's script. Then again, considering his past triumphs - The Shaggy Dog and Daddy Day Care - one shouldn't be surprised at the quality of this screenplay.

On those rare occasions when RV stumbles across a comedic moment that is legitimately funny, it drains the humor out of it by milking it dry. RV falls into the category of movies a critic endures primarily to warn others off. Those who ignore the danger signs and plunk down their hard-earned dollars to sit through RV will quickly recognize that this is one road trip upon which they'll wish they hadn't embarked.

RV (United States, 2006)

Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Cast: Robin Williams, Cheryl Hines, Joanna 'JoJo' Levescue, Josh Hutcherson, Jeff Daniels, Kristin Chenoweth
Screenplay: Geoff Rodkey
Cinematography: Fred Murphy
Music: James Newton Howard
U.S. Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Run Time: 1:38
U.S. Release Date: 2006-04-28
MPAA Rating: "PG" (Profanity)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1