Joanna 'JoJo' Levesque
Once upon a time there was a nice average All-American type family. The father was a working stiff who just wanted to have a family vacation where they would spend all their time together before the kids grew up and went off to college. He decided the best way to do this was to take the family on a cross country trip together. The rest of the family objected at first but the father's mind was made up. As they traveled out west the family had one misadventure after another. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong so that near the end of our little fairy tale everybody was ready to wring dear old dad’s neck. But as fairy tales go, the family eventually found togetherness and despite all the mishaps and hardships, they found that being a family is truly the greatest thing on earth.
Sounds like it would make a great movie with endless possibilities doesn't it? Well, it did back in 1983 when Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo and Randy Quaid got together for the first time to make National Lampoon’s Vacation. As for the Robin Williams version of goofball family takes a vacation, it’s not so hot and instead of endless possibilities we end up on a dead end street. In fact, if you make it to the end of RV, give yourself a courage medal for having made the trip.
Plot wise, there isn’t too much to tell except that unlike Clark Griswold who wanted to take his family on a cross country tour to Disneyland facsimile Wally World, Bob Munro (Robin Williams) eschews the planned trip to Hawaii out of necessity because his boss wants him to deliver a sales pitch in Colorado. Bob then rents an RV and convinces his wife Jamie (Cheryl Hines) that it’s best to take the two kids, Cassie and Carl ('JoJo' Levesque and Josh Hutcherson) and hit the road in an RV. Of course Bob knows nothing about going across country in such a vehicle, and the possibilities of ensuing hilarity are endless. What you’ll find out is that although the movie runs a quick 98 minutes you’ll be worn out from pacing the floor hoping the film will end for about 97 1/2 of those minute. There were more laughs watching the airbag open in the Griswold’s Wagon Queen Family Truckster than in the entire running time of RV.
This is an example of what director Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Geoff Rodkey see as being uproariously comedic. Not far into the journey the crapper in the RV gets backed up. Of course Bob has to figure out how to empty it and yes you can pencil in, “this is the part where Bob gets gross waste products sprayed on him.”
Although we can easily predict this occurrence, there was still a chance for the sequence to tickle are funny bone if done with some imagination. Instead we get stuck with Bob and Carl aided endlessly by some other hapless bumpkins who don’t know much more about it than they do. What we get is a crash course in RV plumbing as they change one hose and one connection after another and each time a little more shit sprays on Bob. By the time the sequence is over, I guarantee you’ll be looking at your watch. I looked at the timer on the DVD player and it told me I still had more than an hour of suffering yet to go. By the time the film was over, I was ready to apply for Sainthood. This is however, what one should expect when you have the director of The Wild Wild West team up with the writer of Daddy Day Care and Daddy Day Camp. That alone should have been an ominous omen.
Just as the Griswold’s had Cousin Eddie and his weird and hilariously obnoxious family to help out, the Munro’s meet up with Gornicke Family. Unlike Cousin Eddie and family, the Gornicke’s (Jeff Daniels, Kristin Chenoweth, Hunter Parrish, Chloe Sonnenfeld, Alex Ferris) aren’t very weird or all that strange, so of course they are seldom if ever funny. They are simply here to help Bob and the rest of us learn a lesson.
The lesson we learn is that if you see a PG rating next to a film that’s supposed to be outrageously over the top funny, chances are that it’s not going to be. Yes, you read that right. It is rated PG for crude humor, innuendo and language. In other words, take the doo-doo scene out and you probably get a G rating.
This could almost be any Disney film made in the seventies with Kurt Russell being strong, invisible, or a computer wearing tennis shoes. No, I take that back. Those films were much better and funnier than than this film was, and take my word for it. They weren't that funny.
Perhaps it might have helped if Bob Monroe was a more likable guy at the outset but he is not. Instead of Robin Williams making Bob a funny man, he makes Bob the most obnoxious person you were ever forced to meet. The best way to explain it is that Bob is obnoxious in the way that a Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity would be if they were in this film, not a lovable type of obnoxious the way a Ted Baxter was.
Cheryl Hines as his wife Jamie doesn’t fare much better. She isn’t obnoxious, but she isn’t funny either. She’s simply there. And why do teenagers in movies these days have to be so obnoxious from beginning to end? One would think that all teenagers totally hate their parents, never do anything they’re told, and their first brain cell is still under development. Is this the same Josh Hutcherson that was so great in Bridge to Terabithia?
If you have never seen this film, then good for you. Avoid it under any and all circumstances. Even if it would somehow save you from death, take your chances with death. If you see it on a video store shelf run away as fast as you can. Don't go near it, and for God's sake don't let your kids or teens bring it home either. If they do take it out in the yard and bury it, quickly. And if the dog digs it up and starts chewing on it, shoot the dog.
Having instituted a special certificate of merit award, I now have another film to lovingly bestow it on. Better second than never. Yes, my friends, RV becomes the second winner of the Poo Poo on you award.