RV review by Mike Long

When people discuss the funniest comedians of the 80s, Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy are often mentioned. But for my money, no one could beat Robin Williams. 1982's "An Evening with Robin Williams" and 1986's "Robin Williams: Live at the Met" are two of the most hilarious concerts that I've ever seen. This may be hard for a younger generation to understand, as Williams has devoted so much of his recent career to dramatic roles (this can be traced back to his Oscar-winning turn in Good Will Hunting.) RV is Williams' first comedic starring role in nearly a decade (I'm not counting Death to Smoochy (too dark) or Patch Adams (too saccharine)). Does this mark a return to greatness for Williams?

Williams stars in RV as Bob Munro, an executive with a soft-drink company. His plans to take his family, wife Jamie (Cheryl Hines), daughter Cassie (Joanna “JoJo” Levesque), and son Carl (Josh Hutcherson), on a vacation to Hawaii are threatened when his boss (Will Arnett) announces that he’ll need Bob in Boulder, Colorado to help close a merger deal. As his family has recently accused Bob of focusing more on his work than his homelife, he lies about the business meeting and tells his family that he’s cancelled the Hawaii trip and decided to take everyone cross-county in a rented RV. The family, especially the kids, are not thrilled with this idea.

From the moment that the RV pulls away from the curb and destroys several decorations, the trip is a disaster. Along with the many problems caused by the temperamental RV, the Munros encounter the Gornicke family -- Travis (Jeff Daniels) and Marie Jo (Kristin Chenoweth) and their three children -- at an RV park and find that they can’t shake this overly-happy clan. As more and more things go wrong, Bob worries about making it to Boulder in time for the meeting. It becomes a question of what will cause Bob more misery; the RV or his family once they learn that they’ve been duped.

RV is a shining example of how talented people being involved in a movie doesn’t guarantee a quality product. As you can see from the above synopsis, RV has some well-known actors who have certainly done some good work in the past. Heck, it was great just to see Arrested Devleopment alums Will Arnett and Tony Hale in a scene together. The movie was directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, whose resume as a cinematographer (Raising Arizona, Big, When Harry Met Sally...) is only slightly surpassed by his directing credits (the Addams Family films, the Men in Black movies, Get Shorty). So, one could definitely enter the movie with a glimmer of hope.

So, it’s disappointing to report that RV is a staggeringly mediocre movie. This is one of those films that does one good thing for every three bad things that it does. For starters, the film’s entire concept is a little hard to swallow. If Bob wouldn’t have lied about his situation, the majority of the problems in the film could have been avoided. From there, the script doesn’t get much smarter. Everything in this movie is played far too broad and there aren’t many subtle moments. And if you’re a fan of running jokes, then you are going to love RV. The particular running joke in this film deals with the fact that the parking brake on the RV doesn’t work and they pull that puppy out every few minutes. It gets to the point where you think, “They want me to think that there’s going to be a gag with the RV rolling here, but they aren’t fooling me. They’ve done that too many times already.” But, sure enough, there goes the RV. Every character in the film plays their stereotype to the hilt, especially the over-the-top Gornickes.

Again, this is a waste of talent. Williams and Hines do manage to sneak in some funny one-liners here and there. There are some moments where Williams launches into his trademark wildman routine, and while these touches are somewhat funny, they are so incongruous with Bob’s character that they feel like outtakes which have been edited into the film. Sonnenfeld made a name for himself with his hyperkinetic style of shooting films, but none of that style is to be had here.

RV is a great example of a completely disposable film. To be honest, I did laugh a few times and the subplot involving a man trying to re-connect with his family was touching, but overall the film is very forgettable. Although, RV enthusiasts may not easily forget it, as the film portrays those who travel cross-country in these campers as weirdos and rednecks. If you want to see this film, I recommend that you procure it the same way that Bob got his RV: Rent it.

RV rolls onto DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has come to DVD in two separate releases, one full-frame and the other widescreen. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 2.40:1. The picture here is fairly good, but it does display some mild problems. The image is sharp and clear for the most part. There is some mild grain in some shots and the image is somewhat dark at times. These dark scenes show some very subtle shimmering. The colors are good, most notably the scene in which the gaudy RV is parked in a bleak desert. The framing looks good and artifacting is kept to a minimum. The DVD features a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. This track brings us clear dialogue and sound effects. As with most Sony releases, the audio is impressive. The surround sound effects are surprisingly good for a family comedy, especially those scenes where the RV is crashing through the wilderness. There is also a nice amount of bass response, again from those scenes where the RV is crashing. The sub had a good time with this one.

The RV DVD contains a few extras. We start with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from director Barry Sonnenfeld. This commentary has the distinction of providing Sonnenfeld with a “Telestrator”, you know, that device that John Madden uses to illustrate plays on NFL broadcasts. Sonnenfeld uses the device to point out particulars in a scene while he talks. His chat is good, but there are a few too many personal asides about how Robin Williams is imitating him or how he and his wife communicate. Sonnenfeld is back again in “Barry Sonnenfeld: The Kosher Cowboy” (9 minutes). This segment focuses on the director, including his fashion sense, and has the cast comment on working with him. “JoJo: The Pop Princess” (5 minutes) and “Robin Williams: A Family Affair” (5 minutes) each examine the individuals role and experience on the film. Guess which one feels more substantial? “RV Nation: The Culture of Road Warriors” (12 minutes) is not the mini-documentary about real-life RV enthusiasts that I thought it would be. Instead, it’s simply a chance for cast and crew to discuss their own vacations. “The Scoop on Poop” (4 minutes) shows behind-the-scenes footage of the toilet scene. The DVD contains one ALTERNATE SCENE (2 minutes). The extras are rounded out by a GAG REEL (5 minutes) and STORYBOARD-TO-FILM COMPARISONS for five scenes.

4 out of 10 Jackasses

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