Review: RV (2006)

Note: This article was originally published in Technician on April 28, 2006.


'R.V.' a fairly fun ride

On a family vacation, no one can hear you scream.

So runs the tagline for RV, the latest film directed by Men in Black director Barry Sonnenfeld. And unlike family road trip films of the recent past (remember Johnson Family Vacation), though it's far from an instant classic, it manages not to inspire screaming in the theater, let alone on the road.

R.V. follows Bob Munro (Robin Williams) as he rents an RV and drags his wife (Cheryl Hines), daughter (Joanna "JoJo" Levesque) and son (Josh Hutcherson) on a trip to Boulder, Colorado. He tells them it's meant to be a last attempt at family bonding before they split up over the summer, but in reality, he's trying to get to Boulder so he can pitch a presentation and save his job. The plot is flimsy and only meant as an excuse to get them out on the road, where they face the various obstacles presented by driving an R.V., of all things.

Williams' acting as the witty but clumsy father with good intentions is pitch perfect, even if it's nothing new. All the other actors manage to hold their own, though in the end they're overshadowed by his manic physical comedy and rapid-fire line delivery. However, the real show-stealer is a surprise appearance by a barely recognizable Jeff Daniels as a hillbilly father of three whose family lives out of their R.V.

Though the film relies mainly on physical slapstick comedy, there's a healthy amount of smart dialogue. Unfortunately, the film often relies on cheap bathroom humor to garner easy laughs from younger audiences Ð the lines referring to the "giant rolling turd" soon become uncountable and tiresome. Williams is at his best when performing fantastic physical comedy, whether it be hanging on a moving RV or climbing cliffs searching for a wireless signal. These moments are reminiscent of old Steve Martin comedies or the Chevy Chase "Vacation" films, and for the most part Sonnenfeld avoids cliches and keeps the slapstick original, if not constantly laugh-out-loud funny.

In a time when most family films fail to actually appeal to families and mainly target children, R.V. reminds us of a time when comedy was for everyone. Though it's far from excellent, fans of slapstick should find it to be an above-average film that provides laughs for adults as well as kids.