Case Number 09915


Sony // 2006 // 99 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // August 28th, 2006

The Charge

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

Opening Statement

Hey, it's Robin Williams! And he's covered in s***! That is high-larious!

Facts of the Case

Williams (One Hour Photo) plays Bob Munro, a devoted, hard-working family man who lately has been feeling out of touch with his family. His job demands so much of his time that when his vacation finally looms, he sees an opportunity to reconnect with the people he loves. Like his wife Jamie (Cheryl Hines, Curb Your Enthusiasm) and his bitchy daughter Cassie (pop singer JoJo). But just as the Munro clan is set to take off for Hawaii, Bob's overbearing boss (Will Arnett) forces him to go to a major meeting.

Unwilling to further bum out his family, Bob weaves a web of deception, by convincing them to go on a cross-country RV trip. They are all pissed and disappointed, of course, but eventually relent, and what ensues is a family vacation across the country, fraught with one disaster after another. Can Bob make it to the meeting to save his job? Will his family understand once his true scheme is revealed? Will there be lots of fart jokes? Is the big jerk of a boss going to get beat up by the precocious little son? Will Bob learn a big, fat lesson?

Oh, count on it. Just don't count on laughing very much, or, you know, at all.

The Evidence

RV loves poop. Seriously, the ratio of poop to non-poop jokes is like 20 to 1. I'm not sure if I've seen a more scatological PG-rated movie; Robin Williams gets coated in a sewage geyser, there are multiple diarrhea set-pieces and sophomoric one liners ("If there was a poop fairy, I'd be loaded" or something to that effect) abound. Someone obviously had the digestive system on the brain when this film was getting written.

Cheap fecal jokes aside, RV stinks primarily because it's so cookie-cutter and formulaic you have to wonder if anyone's got an original idea in Hollywood anymore. Lots of people will likely make the jokes that they liked RV better the first they saw it...when it was called National Lampoon's Vacation. And that's a valid observation. From the whiny daughter, to the loyal, but misunderstood son, to the exasperated, level-headed mother, to the rednecks, to gaudy vehicle, to the steady stream of catastrophes, RV seems less like an original intellectual property and more a remake of Chevy Chase's classic -- just a lot less amusing.

This yet another example of moviemaking that is 100 percent predictable up to and concluding the not-so-surprising complete change of heart our protagonist has at the end, even when it flies in the face of all reason. You'll be able to pinpoint the individual arcs of each character from the onset, as if you were crystal ball-gazing.

But it is a lowbrow comedy, and probably fashioned to be boilerplate, and thus the film ultimately lives or dies on the jokes. And while there are a few decent lines that surface here or there, the vast amount of humor in this wreck falls utterly flat. RV depends mainly on slapstick humor, but what deep-sixes that strategy is the disbelief associated with the physical comedy. There are only so many jokes you can do with an RV, and this film manages to use every one twice over. You'll see the massive vehicle run over stuff (a lot), crash through the trees, fly into the lake, hit jumps like it was motocross, and, incomprehensible, gently roll downhill, crushing a couple of sedans in the process (!). Add to that, Bob is usually draped all over the vehicle like he was Keanu Reeves from Speed, surviving impossible crashes, and swinging from windshield wipers. It's all done with computers of course, and though the visual effects are okay, there's no denying that it's monstrously fake.

The film is PG, and that's a rare thing, but while the sexual situations and foul language is kept to a minimum, the gross-out humor is cranked to 11. If it were remotely funny, these sequences, as well as the outlandish physical set-pieces, might be forgiven, but the sad truth is that the entire package is a big, fat lemon.

Sony's put out a solid presentation (wasn't this movie in the theaters last week?). The 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer looks fine, and even better in some of the exterior vista shots, though the clear picture often betrays the CGI work. For audio, the 5.1 mix is aggressive, making decent use of the discrete channels.

Lots of easy-lifting special features on this disc. Director Barry Sonnenfeld gives a "Telestrator" commentary, which is actually kind of neat. As he talks, he'll draw on the screen, much like a sports commentator. Five bite-sized featurettes total to a decent sized making-of package: "JoJo: The Pop Princess," "RV Nation: The Culture of Road Warrios," "Robin Williams: A Family Affair," and -- of course -- "The Scoop on Poop." A gag reel, storyboards, an alternate scene, and some on-set footage pull up the rear.

Closing Statement

RV isn't the anti-Christ, but it's far from road-worthy. A tedious, weather-beaten story is further hampered by lots of misfired jokes and an over-reliance on scatological humor and over-the-top physical comedy.

The Verdict

The accused is impounded.

Review content copyright © 2006 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 90
Audio: 90
Extras: 85
Acting: 75
Story: 60
Judgment: 65

Perp Profile
Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)

* English
* French

Running Time: 99 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Director's Telestrator Commentary
* "JoJo Pop Princess"
* "RV Nation: The Culture of Road Warriors"
* "Robin Williams: A Family Affair"
* "The Scoop on Poop"
* Gag Reel
* Alternate Scene
* RV Reveries
* Storyboards
* Trailers

* IMDb