Bob Munro (Robin Williams
) has reached a difficult intersection on the road of life. Once, he played hero to his daughter Cassie (Joanna “JoJo” Levesque
). Now she’s an iPod-sporting, disgruntled teenager who’d rather hang with Osama bin Laden than dear old dad. Bob seeks support from wife Jamie (Cheryl Hines
) and son Carl (Josh Hutcherson
), though his efforts are met by blank stares.
Bob’s work situation isn’t much better. As the former golden employee inches closer to retirement, he’s forced to look over his shoulder at the younger, hungrier competition eager to please a selfish, credit-hogging boss (Will Arnett
). Bob seeks support from his coworkers, and finds those familiar blank stares.
Suddenly, the red light clogging Bob’s progression turns green. A lucrative business meeting in Colorado presents itself as the stone with which Bob can kill two birds. He cancels his family’s planned trip to Hawaii and loads the alienated crew onto an RV bound for Boulder. In one fell swoop, Bob plans to mend the fences around his familial unit and snatch his career from the jaws of inconsequentiality. Article continues below
So begins R.V., Barry Sonnenfeld
’s inaugural collaboration with Williams and the actor’s first foray into funnier territories since 2002’s jet-black Death to Smoochy. It doesn’t take Williams long to find his legs, and the opening scenes breeze by with lively timing and a succession of rapid-fire laughs. Arnett and Hines are adequate sparring partners for Williams, even as the comedian commits to creating an earnest father-figure and not just a one-note clown.
Then, the RV shows up, and everything that was seemingly clever about Geoff Rodkey’s script gets bashed over the head by slapstick comedy choreography and rank toilet humor. The Munros repeatedly encounter the Gornickes, a family of do-gooders led by Jeff Daniels
and Kristin Chenoweth
who we’re told to mock because they're overtly nice. Bob hides his job-driven motives from his family, which leads to bumbling and predictable quandaries involving his laptop and a makeshift plan to escape the family vacation to attend his important meeting.
Some jokes hit their marks. Others hint at interesting avenues before disappearing. The Gornicke’s youngest son has a sleep disorder. He tells Bob he’s been awake since his fifth birthday… and then nothing. It’s one of many opportunities Rodkey misses completely.
What the screenwriter never overlooks if a good poop joke. Though the RV almost runs out of fuel, the script, sadly, has plenty of gas to spare. The Munro family nicknames their vehicle “the big rolling turd.” Bob Munro’s initials are B.M. – which in this case has to be considered an apparent nod to bowel movements. Rodkey and Sonnenfeld construct an elongated scene around the emptying of the RV’s cesspool, which was already full of someone else’s crap. By the end of the scene – long after any legitimate laughs – Williams is covered in feces and our hopes for highbrow laughs have left the theater.
It’s a bit much for a PG-rated family comedy, especially one with sweet messages aimed at families. Williams, running for the rest area toilet, may have shared Rodkey’s hidden motives for writing such an unpleasant script when he blurts, “If there’s a poop fairy, I can make a lot of money.”