Drive by this awkward family comedy
Like its name, Barry Sonnenfeld's "RV" is a big, clunky vehicle for stellar comedic talent, burning up a lot of fuel trying to reach its goal, but never once achieving coolness. Beyond the surliness and crude physical comedy there's an underlying sweetness that's achieved rather unconvincingly, but achieved nonetheless.
The obvious predecessor to this film is the National Lampoon "Vacation" movies, in which a fairly normal but grouchy family goes on vacation, experiences many nasty setbacks, infighting and kooky supporting characters, only to bond all the closer for their shared misery. In this case, the Munro family is taking a trip via RV, which has its own set of vehicle-specific humor like its cumbersome size, the lack of privacy and its waste/plumbing peculiarities, which provides one of the nastiest, drawn-out sequences in the film.
Bob Munro (Robin Williams) takes his family on a cross-country vacation (with a hidden work-related agenda) in order to have better communication with his kids other than just IM-ing them that dinner's ready. No one else is too psyched though. Stay-at-home mom Jamie (Cheryl Hines) just wanted a break from taking care of the home and cooking, while scrawny son Carl (Josh Hutcherson) just wants to bulk up. The worst yet is Cassie (Joanna "JoJo" Levesque), who once adored her goofy dad but now only has contempt for him.
On the other end of the family spectrum is the happy Gornicke clan: patriarch Travis (Jeff Daniels), mama MaryJo (Kristin Chenoweth), sons Earl (Hunter Parrish) and Billy (Alex Ferris) and daughter Moon (Chloe Sonnenfeld). They seem a bit simple, but what they lack in social polish, they make up for in enthusiasm and family togetherness.
"RV" is a panorama of pain, partly because of all the awkward physical comedy such as the RV getting stuck everywhere imaginable or Bob battling hungry raccoons. In addition, his continued failures to impress his boss (Will Arnett) and family are just downright frustrating and humiliating. Do we really need yet another scene where an up-hip adult tries to use hip-hop slang? Some people like this type of comedy. They're called masochists.
This is not to say that the Munros' idiosyncrasies aren't realistic; they're just exaggerated to the point that when the family finally starts getting along, it's too abrupt. One minute they're bickering, and the next they're composing a song about the RV, which they've lovingly dub the "big rolling turd." Frankly, after the big buildup, everything ends far too perfectly: Cassie loves dad again; the Gornickes are smart; Bob's family values get him a better job; and Carl has hope that he'll grow up big and strong.
If you're not terribly picky about the packaging, but a fan or Williams, Daniels or Chenoweth, they turn in fine, high-energy performances and actually look like they're having fun while they're at it. They're fun, but don't really make the film any funnier. But at least this way you don't have to wait to take bathroom breaks for fear of missing anything worthwhile.