RV Written By: Geoff Rodkey Directed By: Barry Sonnenfeld US Theatrical Premiere: April 28, 2006 (Sony Pictures) US DVD Release: August 15, 2006 Running Time: 1:38:57 (29 Chapter Stops) Rating: PG (For Crude Humor, Innuendo and Language) Video: 2.40:1 anamorphic (Extra Features: 1.33:1 & 1.78:1 non-anamorphic) Audio: English DD5.1, French DD5.1 (Extra Features: English DD2.0) Subtitles: English, French (Extra Features: None) TV-Generated Closed Captions: English (Extra Features: None) Menus: Animated (transitions can be skipped). Packaging: Standard keepcase; insert features cover images from other Sony Pictures family films on one side and an Open Season poster on the other. A second insert features a 10%-off coupon for KOA Kampgrounds. MSRP: $28.95 THE WAY I FEEL ABOUT IT: 1.5/5 I am tempted here to take the easy route, and just come up with a selection of descriptive phrases that use the letters “RV.” “Royally Vile.” “Rotten and Vapid.” “RepulsiVe,” even. But you, dear reader, deserve more than that. However, this sorry excuse for a summer crowd-pleaser deserves less. That said, what could be more appropriate than to turn to RV itself for inspiration. The kids in the movie give the recreational vehicle of the title a name, so I’ll borrow that moniker and apply it to this high-concept vehicle: “Big Rolling Turd.” Rebellious teens and frazzled parents who wonder what happened to their sweet little children are nothing new in Hollywood. Nor is the idea of throwing them together in situations that require them to overcome their mutual loathing and learn to respect one another. So a new entry in the genre will need a hook and a certain level of quality in order to stand out. RV has a giant green hook with wheels, but fails miserably on the second count. The laughs are few and far between, the family is dull and unlikable, and the story feels like a mishmash of clichés that don’t quite fit together. To add insult to injury, Robin Williams mostly plays it low-key, with only a handful of opportunities to bust out his signature riffing. And even when he is allowed to open it up a little, the results are mixed. Successful soda pop executive Bob Munro (Williams) is ready for a much-needed vacation to Hawaii. His boss Todd (Will Arnett of Arrested Development fame, here in a project whose development should have been arrested) is a demanding, egomaniacal tyrant (and one of the oh-so-few bright spots of comedy), and his family is slipping away as his kids enter their teen years. He feels that the vacation is one last chance to connect with his kids while they still have some tiny shred of desire to spend time with their parents – or at least before they’re old enough to take off in the car. His wife Jamie (Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Cheryl Hines, here in a project that curbs our will to live) just needs to get away from the daily grind of keeping the house and kids organized. Daughter Cassie (Joanna “JoJo” Levesque) looks forward to nice solitary activities like surfing, while son Carl (Josh Hutcherson) plans to spend his Hawaiian sojourn in the hotel weight room. But wait, you say – how are they going to work an RV into a Hawaii trip? Well, that’s where mean ol’ Todd comes in. He informs Bob that Hawaii has to wait, because he needs him to create and deliver a presentation to a potential merger partner in Colorado. A chance comment in the break room leads Bob to the idea of renting an RV and turning the Colorado trip into a replacement family vacation. In a classic “acting stupidly for no other reason than to advance the plot and set up a contrived future confrontation” move, Bob declines to inform his family of the real reason for the switch, instead pretending to have changed his own mind about Hawaii, and hides his laptop aboard the Big Rolling Turd so the others won't know he plans to work during the trip. Off go the Munros, with the first order of business being to wreck their landscaping in an attempt to turn the unwieldy beast around. Unfortunately, this is a harbinger of the general level of humor to come – that poor Turd is in for all sorts of scratches, bumps, and water damage (as is the audience). (Note to filmmakers the world over: if you have to add kooky, up-tempo, bluegrassy music to make a scene funny, just give up -- it’s not going to work.) The first stop is a camper park where it is soon discovered that the previous renters of the vehicle left the waste tank backed up. This leads to a sequence that required upwards of 1,500 gallons of prop fecal matter. At this point, if you don’t already know how this is going to turn out, then you’re probably too young for a PG film. Following the septic holocaust, a friendly fellow camper comes to the rescue. Travis Gornicke (real-life RV enthusiast Jeff Daniels – and when I say “RV enthusiast” I do not mean to insult his taste in movies; I’m just saying he digs road trips) knows his way around a recreational vehicle, and is able to help Bob out. He then invites Bob to bring his family for dinner, although Bob is a bit hesitant to expose the rather uptight Munro clan to the down-home Gornickes. Of course, another unfunny mishap forces Bob to give up on cooking dinner himself, and he brings his crew over to the Gornicke Bus. The Gornickes turn out to be annoyingly upbeat but super-friendly hillbilly types, although they don’t hold a candle to the extraordinarily annoying and snotty McMansion types that are the Munros (who on various occasions refer to themselves, accurately, as “not friendly” and “not very appealing”). Which leads us to yet another general problem with the flick – at every turn, the Gornickes, whose only crime is being a little too country and mildly goofy, lend a helping hand to the Munros. In return, the Munros yell “Emergency!” or “Mayday!” and literally run screaming at the sight of them. I suppose one could think of these pinnacles of jerkytude as breaks from the Munros insulting each other, but it’s not much of a respite. Yes, they’ll magically have a change of heart by the end (oh, come on! You call that a spoiler?) – when they become really, really desperate for help. How charming. At this point, I think you get the picture – any more comments, and I feel like I’d be piling on. RV is a lame, unoriginal mess that fails to get viewers to care about its characters, and worse, fails to get them to laugh. Sure, there are a couple of chuckles here and there (mostly during one of Will Arnett’s half-dozen scenes or Robin Williams’ even less numerous improvs), but not nearly enough to fill out a 100 minute film. Neither the rote parent-teen conflict nor the comedy hits the mark. THE WAY I SEE IT: 2.5/5 The picture quality is hit and miss. The colors are quite rich – sometimes rich enough to make skin tones funky. Also, most daylight exterior scenes seem overexposed, although night and interior scenes look fine. There is some visible edge enhancement, but it isn’t too obtrusive. THE WAY I HEAR IT: 3.5/5 The audio is, for the most part, pretty solid. Dialogue and effects are mostly center channel, with a 5.1 music mix and a very active LFE, which sometimes gets a bit boomy. Some scenes have great directional effects, while others strangely lack them. THE SWAG: 2.5/5 (rating combines quality and quantity) Telestrator Commentary With Director Barry Sonnenfeld Just an OK track. Sonnenfeld has some interesting production nuggets to relate, but tends to repeat himself. A lot. And the main effect of the telestrator gimmick is to disable the subtitles while the commentary is active. He doesn’t do much with it beyond circling the character or prop being discussed. Incidentally, there’s a joke in the movie involving the mispronunciation of “chutzpah.” In the commentary, Sonnenfeld mispronounces “verkakteh.” He doesn’t appear to be kidding. Gag Reel (5:07) A better-than-average reel, mainly due to Robin Williams’ improvised variations on the “Tickle Monster” scene. Featurettes The following five featurettes may be played separately or via the trusty Play All button. They all include cast and crew interviews as well as behind-the-scenes production footage. Barry Sonnenfeld: The Kosher Cowboy (9:14) We learn from cast and crew how funny and neurotic Sonnenfeld is, and how crazy it is for a Jewish guy to wear a cowboy hat. “Yippie-oy-vey,” indeed. JoJo: The Pop Princess (4:55) Oh, how great it was to work with young singer Joanna “JoJo” Levesque. And that’s all I’m saying about that until Ms. Levesque hits 18. RV Nation: The Culture of Road Warriors (11:34) Not surprisingly, the cast and crew talk about RVs. Few of them have much experience with the huge vehicles, aside from Jeff Daniels, who’s an RV enthusiast known for driving one from his Michigan home to movie shoots. Robin Williams: A Family Affair (5:15) He may be off the nose candy, but he’s still pretty wacky. Everyone on set was highly amused. The Scoop On Poop (3:50) The making of a rather scatological scene involving Robin Williams’ character trying to empty the RV’s waste tank. The scene was beyond juvenile, but this behind-the-scenes look is actually kinda interesting. RV Reveries For a scene in which the entire Munro family (save Bob) is singing along to wildly different songs on their individual headphones, each member was filmed separately. Here we see each of the three takes on its own, in its entirety: Jamie (3:26), Cassie (3:17), and Carl (3:15). Hey kids! See how long you can sit through ‘em after clicking Play All. Cheryl Hines is truly, stunningly bad (which is amusing for a while), but JoJo is a good singer trying way too hard to sound bad by yelling. Josh Hutcherson is rapping – ‘nuff said. Storyboard-to-Film Comparisons Five scenes are shown in a small window on top of the corresponding storyboards. The window unfortunately blocks part of the drawings. All together, they run just under 15 minutes, but for whatever reason, there’s no Play All option. Go figure! Alternate Scene: Kung Fu Master (1:54) An alternate version of one of Robin Williams’ improvised riffs. About as funny as the gangsta-themed version that was used in the film, which is to say only moderately amusing. Campground Coupon Inside the case is a 10%-off “Promotional Value Kard” for KOA Kampgrounds, which feature RV, cabin, and tent site rentals. The coupon is valid until August 31, 2007. Visit www.koa.com for details. Trailers In a bizarre twist, the trailers that play upon inserting the disc (which may be skipped) do not appear on the menu. The automatic trailers (in order): Monster House (1:52) (DD5.1; 2.35:1 anamorphic) Open Season (2:15) (DD5.1; 1.85:1 anamorphic) Zoom (2:06) (DD5.1; 1.85:1 anamorphic) The trailers on the menu: Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2:10) (DD5.1; 1.85:1 anamorphic) The Pink Panther (2006) (2:04) (DD2.0; 1.85:1 anamorphic) Are We There Yet? (2:32) (DD2.0; 1.85:1 anamorphic) Daddy Day Care (2:06) (DD2.0; 1.85:1 anamorphic) SUMMING IT ALL UP The Way I Feel About It: 1.5/5 The Way I See It: 2.5/5 The Way I Hear It: 3.5/5 The Swag: 2.5/5 What more can I say? RV fails on nearly every level. It stirs up a big stew of lousy story, irritating characters, and crappy humor. The disc is OK, with some decent features, but looking and sounding all right doesn’t make the Big Rolling Turd smell any better. Seems to me that when the Munros boarded their camper, the funny got on the plane to Hawaii anyway. A big disappointment. But on the plus side, if you’re planning a camping trip, that 10%-off coupon could come in handy.