Nowadays it seems pretty popular to poke fun at Robin Williams and his by-now well-worn comedic stylings, but I simply can't find it in myself to give up on the guy. He's given me way too many laughs over way too many movies, and I feel no shame in throwing a little loyalty in Williams' direction. And while the guy's done some really strong work in recent films like Insomnia and One Hour Photo, I simply cannot overlook the cinematic atrocity that is RV. Basically, if you ever wanted to know what a quick Hollywood paycheck looks like, go ask Robin Williams or director Barry Sonnenfeld what they remember about RV.
Dusting off the painfully simplistic "family road trip" schtick that Vacation pretty much put to bed, RV is about a craven wimp of a domestic father, and how he takes his shrill and hateful family on a road trip from California to Colorado. Along the way you can expect several jokes that center on human shit, a few "wacky" animal attacks, innumerable pathetic pratfalls, tons of eye-rolling sarcasm, a whole bunch of latent bigotry... Oh, and precisely zero laughs. I'd mention the movie's one subplot, that the vacation is secretly a work trip, but it's nothing more than D-grade filler material. And that's me being nice.
Sheesh, when comedy stars and fancy directors get old and "sell out," they're sure not shy about wallowing in it. Written by the guy who scribbled Daddy Day Care and The Shaggy Dog, RV is a ceaseless deluge of hairy gags, forced quips, uninspired banter, and Robin Williams returning to his chest of old favorites. (He does funny voices!) You'd expect a supporting cast of Cheryl Hines, Will Arnett, and Jeff Daniels to offer at least a little something in the "amusing or diverting" department, but Sonnenfeld simply can't be bothered. While RV possesses the director's own touch of crisp cinematography and fluid camera flourishes, one has to wonder why you'd buy a $1,000 frame for a 2-dollar picture.
RV looks like it was slapped together as production chugged (cheaply) along, with no impetus behind its creation aside from an empty slot in Sony's release schedule. The actual "jokes" are terribly few and far between, and when the set-pieces do arrive, Sonnenfeld just lingers on them endlessly, thereby extinguishing any semblance of wit that might somehow (accidentally) shine through. And please, when the worthless and entirely schizophrenic parcel of Act III sentimentalism arrives, be sure to send the thing back -- cuz it stinks. Basically, this is an ugly, desperate, witless little movie that, even if you happen to like it, will evaporate from your memory in the time it takes to flip the channel.
I'm not saying Robin Williams can't go a really good "family style" comedy; I'm saying RV is one of the worst comedies I've seen in five years. And this is coming from a guy who (still) considers Robin Williams a seriously talented entertainer. As far as Sonnenfeld's concerned, just wait till you see his end-credits musical number.
Video: The anamorphic widescreen (2.40:1) transfer is probably the best thing about this entire RV fiasco. If there's one thing Sonnenfeld knows, it's how to frame a colorful shot, and he does so about 4 or 5 times in this movie.
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English or French), which sounds just fine, provided you can actually stand the dialogue. Subtitles are available in English and French, should you need your own transcription of the year's worst screenplay.
Hoo boy. Here we go:
Director Barry Sonnenfeld contributes a tele-strator commentary, as if one single frame of RV was worthy of intense analysis. The guy rambles nasally and blissfully through the movie, entirely confident that we're all enjoying a brilliant piece of comedy. "We got that Volvo for free," is about as fascinating as Sonnenfeld gets. Oh, and he occasionally draws a line or a circle on your TV screen. Awesome.
Next up is a 5-minute gag reel, which is what happens when you point a camera at Robin Williams.
Then, because my night hasn't been long enough, we get five whole featurettes, which break down like so:
Barry Sonnenfeld: The Kosher Cowboy (9:14) -- Several professional filmmakers talk about how irrepressably wacky that Barry Sonnenfeld is.
Jo-Jo: The Pop Princess (4:54) -- Apparently the young actress who was employed solely to roll her eyeballs while spitting out weak-kneed sarcasm is also a singer of some sort.
RV Nation: The Culture of Road Warriors (11:33) -- In which the filmmakers profess insincere sentiments for an activity / sub-culture they just spent 99 minutes humiliating.
Robin Williams: A Family Affair (5:14) -- Just in case you were wondering, Robin Williams is 1) "always on," 2) "amazingly brilliantly talented," and 3) "omg the sweetest guy to work with."
The Scoop on Poop (3:49) -- In which grown and successful men discuss how awesome their shit-geyser joke is.
Oh, but there's so much more.
A trio of RV Reveries are included, which are alternate takes of the flick's most ear-splitting set-piece. Then we got five storyboard comparisons, one alternate scene (which is just painful), and a bunch of previews for Talladega Nights, The Pink Panther, Are We There Yet?, and Daddy Day Care.
There's this one brilliant sequence in which Robin Williams struggles with a seat belt. I mean, who comes up with this stuff?