Robin Williams as Bob Munro
Cheryl Hines as Jamie Munro
JoJo as Cassie Munro
Josh Hutcherson as Carl Munro
Jeff Daniels as Travis Gornicke
Kristin Chenoweth as Marie Jo Gornicke
Hunter Parrish as Earl Gornicke
Chloe Sonnenfeld as Moon Gornicke
Alex Ferris as Billy Gornicke
Will Arnett as Todd Mallory
Tony Hale as Frank
Brian Howe as Marty
Richard Cox as Laird
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld
Barry Sonnenfeld sends a harassed dad and his family camping in an RV, and arrives at a PG comedy that’s actually amusing.
Bob Munro has promised his family a Hawaii getaway, but suddenly swaps it for some old-fashioned bonding and Rocky Mountain camping in a recreational vehicle. The embattled soda exec must clinch a deal in Colorado to save his corporate neck, but he will endure everything from backed up plumbing to teetering over a rock before subjecting his loved ones to worry. Spared such news, they’re free to act out in dad’s mobile monstrosity. Along the way, raccoons, cascading torrents and other unity-forging indignities will remold these quirky souls into a family. Father knows best, however potholed the road to realization.
To paraphrase Tolstoy, happy family movies are all alike; every unhappy family movie is unhappy in its own way. True to spirit, Barry Sonnenfeld’s new family-misadventure freshens the genre with backtalk so barbed and dysfunction so wacky it stands out from the comedy pack.
Meet the Munros, a Pasadena household that’s splintered by laptops and MP3 players, united solely by its posh roof. Bob Munro is the overworked paterfamilias of this ungrateful, un-Brady bunch. Robin Williams plays him with wondrous restraint, only letting Robin Williams out in brief manic moments that punch up, not blow up, the scene. Consider the riff he does on white rap, meted out as it is in a chewable dose. Likewise, with lines such as “so you admit you’re the problem” while making up with his wife (Cheryl Hines), his inner Patch Adams is held in merciful check. Throughout the movie, comedy nips sentimentality in the bud.
Ms. Hines brings her “Curb Your Enthusiasm” deadpan to the role of Bob’s loving, if exasperated enabler. As well-intended as they are clueless, the Munro parents have two eye-rolling brats to contend with, 12-year old Carl (Josh Hutcherson), who tries to benchpress away his short boy complex, and 15-year old Cassie (Joanna “JoJo” Levesque), whose early adoration as daddy’s little girl has long since curdled into the snarky sarcasm that makes titles like Get Out of My Life, but First Could You Drive Me & Cheryl to the Mall: A Parent’s Guide to the New Teenager best-sellers. Not since Sonnenfeld’s “Addams Family Values” have parents endured such filial impiety, unless his “Men in Black” extra-terrestrials are meant to allegorize teens.
One of the spurs to Munro togetherness is the Gornicke clan, fellow RV campers who give American bonhomie a bad name. Try as they might to dodge these evangelists of blarney and group song, the Monros inevitably keep crossing their path. Bad for them, but great for us-with pests like the ever-hilarious Jeff Daniels as guitar-thrumming Travis Gornicke and classical opera-trained Kristin Chenoweth as his guileless, yodeling wife MaryJo, there can’t be enough pestering by this band of kinetic kin.
The inspiration for “RV” came from the movie’s producers, Lucy Fisher and Douglas Wick, whose real and envisioned mishaps during an RV vacation begged to be brought to screen. Geoff Rodkey’s screenplay expertly mines the potential laughs of a big, dumb multi-wheeler where related city slickers must face down a host of natural, mechanical and emotional challenges. Tough to maneuver and sure to wreak havoc, the RV is a character in itself and an apt metaphor of what it can take to turn around family relationships.
Minus several unexcellent adventures in scatology and road fatigue midway through, the script is both funny and full of heart, and deftly ties together themes of creating, nurturing and letting go. “Never Ending Love” as the musical finale leaves both the audience and the cast on a giddy Rocky Mountain high.
With a lesser master than former cinematographer and proud neurotic Barry Sonnenfeld, “RV” may have crashed in a heap of garish excess. Thankfully the film achieves momentum with hit-and-run repartee that’s not too in-your-ears and with characters who fundamentally care about one another.
The Bottom Line:
The gross-out humor and sass that drive “RV” may not be for everyone, but here’s a broad comedy that makes it past dudish attitude. The smarter-than-average script fleshes out idiosyncratic characters and delivers a sharp but not mean-spirited send-up of the mythical American family. Special mention goes to TV personality and thrush JoJo Levesque, who has found her sea legs since “Aquamarine” and is clearly a talent to watch. If you’re up for a mainstream joyride, book your tickets to “RV” and leave home for the big screen.