"So color me surprised when [director] Barry Sonnenfeld's family comedy turned out to be a palatable picture that doesn't rob Robin Williams of his dignity as a comic actor..."
-Peter Canavese, GrouchoReviews.com
I guess I'm admitting to the fact that I'm a lousy film critic by reading a review before seeing a movie, then reprinting part of it - but I couldn't pass this up. Whatever Mr. Canavese thinks the words "palatable" and "dignity" mean is beyond me. Sonnenfeld's movie goes down like a shot of hot, off-brand cough syrup. The film's star, Robin Williams, surrenders any hope of a decent performance the second he launches into a Sylvester Stallone impression with his hand up a sock puppet - and that happens in the first scene.
RV's premise is pretty simple, so this shouldn't take long to recap it for you: Bob Munro (Williams) is the patriarch of a typical upper-middle class American family. He has two kids, an adorable wife (Cheryl Hines), and works for a large company that buys and sells other smaller companies and their products (in this case, soda). Bob's boss (played by Arrested Development's Will Arnett, is an utter dick (picture AD's G.O.B. as a germophobe-actually, that makes it sound funnier than it is, so don't).
The Munro clan has scheduled a family trip to Hawaii, but Bob is forced to cancel it because of an unforeseen meeting with a company in Colorado. Instead of telling his wife and kids the truth, he changes their plans to suit his hellish job. Behind the façade of familial bonding and getting back to nature, Bob forces them in a rented RV for a road trip, secretly bringing along his laptop.
Early on, RV attempts to induce laughter by showing how big and unwieldy the Munro's vehicle is. As Bob struggles to get the "big rolling turd" (as it's called) out of the driveway, he knocks over just about everything there is in a suburban streetscape. And when they stop at a supermarket for supplies, the turd's brakes give out and, wait... wait... yes, it knocks over a row of shopping carts. Man, that is one uncontrollable RV.
For director Sonnenfeld, this really is another disappointment, considering his impressive pedigree as a cinematographer and director. It's not because RV is rated PG and obviously intended for a family audience - plenty of films, like the Jon Favreau-directed Elf, manage to be as funny as they are family-friendly. This one, however, offers six witty lines, tops, and most of them come from Will Arnett.
Predominantly, the jokes in RV involve A) the RV hitting things, B) the RV hitting people, and C) people and things running into the RV. Beyond that, the film is more or less a lame re-hashing of National Lampoon' Vacation, only with a bigger budget and less punchlines.
Oh yeah, there' also a scene where Robin Williams gets doused in the face with liquid feces, which I interpreted as a loose metaphor for his irrelevance. I can only hope all those kids in the audience did the same.