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Sunday, April 30, 2006

RV

At the Essex Cinemas this weekend concession princess Shaylea asked me if I wanted some nachos and I almost threw up. It’s not that the nachos at the Essex Cinemas aren’t tasty because they are absolutely delicious, but it was because at the time she asked I was thinking about going in to see the new movie RV, and it reminded me of my own tragic years spent on a bus traveling as a member of the musical group Up With People. After that “Nightmare On Every Street” I swore I never wanted to see another bus again, and for that matter I wasn’t sure if we ever went by a dog park I could even stand to see a greyhound run by. I had it bad, but for the sake of cinema, I was going to suck it up, go inside, and try my best to enjoy a vicarious trip inside an RV with Robin Williams. Oh. My. God.

This is the story of Bob Munro (Robin Williams), a workaholic wimp, who is easily bullied at the office by his obnoxious boss Todd Mallory (Will Arnett of tv’s Arrested Development). Todd is such a bully in fact that he makes it clear to Bob that he is expected to write a proposal for a company acquisition presentation in Watson, Colorado by the end of the week, completely botching the Munro family’s plans to go to Hawaii. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Bob is already a less than popular member of the clan, who have basically written him off and created individual lives for themselves that exclude family togetherness and the idea that “husband” and “Dad” should have a place there since he is never home anyway.

To remedy this, Bob gets the brilliant (?) idea to rent an RV and drive from Southern California to
Colorado with the family in tow. They will spend that dubious of all recreations, “quality time”, together. Daughter Cassie (Jo Jo Levesque, Aquamarine) would rather die and throws herself on the RV’s couch where she plans to stay for the rest of the trip, listening to her iPod and ignoring the rest of the world. Son Carl (Josh Hutcherson, Zathura: A Space Adventure) is more concerned about the disruption to his weight training than anything else and comes along mostly preoccupied with lifting his hand weights. Bob’s wife, Jamie (Cheryl Hines of tv’s Curb Your Enthusiasm), is a bit more willing, but only because Bob has made promises that she ought to know he is never going to keep.

So off they go, destroying as much property as they can before they leave their own block, a bad omen indeed. What follows is a series of silly hijinks featuring Williams as an incompetent boob trying without success to manage the basics of life on the road. Anyone familiar with Robin Williams doesn’t have to use much imagination to wonder what will happen when he tries to drain the sewage tank of the RV for the first time. It’s not pretty, but it is funny, in a sick sort of “ewwww” kind of way.

After that crappy episode Williams loses hold as the centerpiece of the movie when the Munro
family meets the Gornicke family, headed up by Jeff Daniels (Good Night, and Good Luck; The Squid and the Whale) as Travis and Kristin Chenoweth (tv’s The West Wing) as Mary Jo, who, along with their three children, comprise the scariest group of nice people you’d ever want to avoid. Mary Jo sells truck horns online and is a representative of a Mary Kay-like cosmetics company, always ready to offer an immediate make-over to anyone she meets, and within seconds of their meeting she has Jamie in her crosshairs. Travis isn’t the breadwinner, but he home-schools the kids and teaches them the important things like harmonica, gee-tar, and good ol’ country choreography, which they are more than happy to demonstrate, and they do. Around now I was having a PTSD Up With People flashback and almost had to leave the theater, but I put my head between my knees to prevent hyperventilating and eventually recovered. I’m glad I did because the Gornickes proved to be quite hilarious and it was a shock to see what most people would label “a Robin Williams movie” being usurped by usually serious actors Daniels and Chenowith, who steal every scene they are in. And fortunately they are in a lot.

Much of the rest of the movie revolves around the Munros’ attempts to shake the Gornickes from their tail. It seems that no matter where the Munros go somehow the Gornickes end up there as well and ~ God Bless ‘Em ~ the Gornickes are so sweet and good natured they just don’t get that they are being fled from at each stop.

Complicating things too is the fact that Bob has neglected to tell his family that the reason they are in this nightmare RV instead of on a beach in Hawaii is because he is heading to a business trip and that is definitely going to blow up in his face before they get to their final destination, just to make the trip all the more miserably funny. His kids have never had much use for their Dad except to look at him as a walking ATM until now and they are finally beginning to believe that they are more important to him than his job. What is going to happen when they find out that this trip is really only a way for him to solve two problems at once?

Of course we all know that everything is going to work out well in the end, but it is hardly worth
worrying about. This is a movie about the jokes, not the drama or the life lessons (even if they try to slip a few in here and there). RV is a stage for Williams to mug and do what he does best, which is make silly faces, talk in funny voices, do crazy stunts, and generally act foolishly, all of which he succeeds at as usual. For those looking for a strong plot or an outstanding cinematic achievement RV will be a disappointment, but for those looking for a couple of hours of laughs then RV is a ride you won’t mind taking.

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