Review: RV – Runaway Vacation
Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld
Written by: Geoff Rodkey
Starring: Robin Williams, Cheryl Hines, Joanna ‘Jo Jo’ Levesque, Josh Hutchinson, Jeff Daniel, Kristin Chenoweth
Released: 2006 / Genre: Comedy / Country: USA / IMDB
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I’m not saying my sister has bad taste in films, I’m just saying our tastes differ, and when she recommended Robin Williams’ 2006 film RV to me, I had some reservations. I had seen the trailer and liked what I’d seen but thought surely it was a low-grade National Lampoon’s Vacation with childish humour that didn’t equate very well with an adult audience. After watching it, in many respects I was right, but Sonnenfeld is a director who for me personally, makes three bad films to every good one. While RV might be bereft of the wry sarcasm and ensemble selection of characters seen in Harold Ramis’ National Lampoon’s Vacaton, it maintains the fish-out-of-water histrionics and innocent, familial values that made the aforementioned film so endearing. RV isn’t a great film, but it certainly doesn’t deserve to be ignored by anyone wanting ninety minutes of escapist fun. Yes, it’s aimed at young teens, and its slot on Sunday afternoon television is already assured, but Robin Williams has a ball with his character (returning to comedy after several dramatic roles), and while the humour might not be to everyone’s liking (indeed, comedy can be such a fickle genre to review), I found myself getting caught up in the physical eccentricities of it all and really warming to it.
The film reminded me of a few eighties movies, perhaps the reason I liked it so much. It has an obvious homage to Richard Donner’s The Goonies when the family of characters find themselves falling down a rain-soaked hill that looks uncannily like a waterslide. There’s a little bit of Parenthood in there, and most certainly National Lampoon’s Vacation. Indeed, the film takes on the very same ideals, which makes it interesting for parents who watch it with their kids. The film begins with Robin Williams’ character Bob Munro telling his very young daughter that they will be the best of friends forever. We then cut to several years later when the daughter is a rebellious fifteen year old who hates her father. Munro finds himself being alienated from his family – he works too much and doesn’t get to spend time with his wife, while his son struggles to come to terms with his small stature, and his daughter desperately seeks individualism. Munro himself can’t really understand where it all went wrong. He started a family and, effectively, in working hard to support it, has become a bit-part player. This sets up the vacation, which Munro uses as a ruse to get to a business meeting he doesn’t want to tell his wife about. Throughout the journey, Munro begins to bond with his family and learn about himself, especially the value of a family unit.
You could easily say it’s pretty rudimentary storytelling, almost contrived, and it is to a certain degree, but Sonnenfeld keeps the pace up and never allows the film’s message to become preachy. Where it falls down is in the characters beyond Munro, who are little more than caricatures. His wife is dutiful but wants the exuberance of their early relationship to come back, his son and daughter are both rebellious but all they really need is some tender loving care from their father; it’s uninspired and seriously hampers the film on multiple viewings. But what makes the film so watchable is Williams, who energises the movie with his great physical humour, his love of comedy excreting from every pore.
RV is enjoyable in a innocent, childlike, Sunday-dinner-round-the-table, type of way. If nothing else, it’ll keep the kids happy for a couple of hours.
Review by Daniel Stephens – See all reviews here