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Les Choristes

The French confection Les Choristes is now available on a skimpy, movie-only DVD —Matt Anderson (DVD review...)

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RV is the most amiable screwball vacation since Clark Griswold took his clan on that fateful road trip back in 1983.

On the Road

A modern-day Partridge family drives another RV
A modern-day Partridge family drives another RV

Unlike Clark Griswold, Bob Munro (Robin Williams, Dead Poets Society) is a thoroughly competent professional. Bob’s a pitchman for Pure Vibe, a major soda company.

But his success has come at a price. Once upon a time he adored his baby girl, Cassie. He even promised the tender young tyke, “You and I will always be best friends.”

Unfortunately, that tyke had to grow up and now she’s a 15-year-old with major attitude (Joanna “JoJo” Levesque, Aquamarine). She no longer refers to her dad as “Dad.” Now he’s “Dork.” Or, even worse, “Mom’s husband.”

Bob has high hopes for rekindling his family life when they head to Hawaii for vacation; it’d be the ideal opportunity to ditch the BlackBerry and instant messaging.

Alas, that’s not to be when his way-too-intense boss, Todd (Will Arnett, Monster-in-Law), corrals him into attending a critical meeting in Boulder, Colorado, where Pure Vibe wants to make an offer for the purchase of Alpine Soda.

Spurred by a moment of inspiration, Bob combines business with pleasure by turning the Boulder meeting into a family road trip in a massive, 4-miles-to-the-gallon RV.

Keep It Real

Like Clark Griswold, Bob can be challenged by simple things, like the outdoors, for example.

Of course, working for a major corporation with a horrible environmental record doesn’t help matters. Pure Vibe’s impact on the environment has been so bad, even one of Cassie’s best friends (dubbed the “overly nice one” by Bob) splashes Todd in the face with her beverage to drive home her youthful indignation while at a party.

All the more anxious to hit the road after that incident, Bob and Co. take off for the Rocky Mountains. As could be expected, the trip rapidly goes down hill, so to speak, from the get go, leaving property damage in the RV’s wake as Bob drives away from their comfy house.

Soon enough, Cassie, brother Carl (Josh Hutcherson, Zathura), and the wife, Jamie (Cheryl Hines, Herbie Fully Loaded), dub the RV “The Big Rolling Turd.”

And then they meet the Gornickes, a modern-day Partridge family featuring all-too-smiley parents (Jeff Daniels, Pleasantville, and Kristin Chenoweth, Bewitched) and their three extremely well behaved and home-schooled (or, more precisely, RV-schooled) children.

Bless ‘em, the Gornickes are really good, honest folk, but they’re not everybody’s cup of tea. Then again, the Monros are also an acquired taste.

Then again… again… director Barry Sonnenfeld’s movies aren’t everybody’s cups of tea. Hitting pay dirt with the Men In Black and Addams Family movies, he also directed Big Trouble, a comedy reviled by many. For what it’s worth, RV ‘s quirkiness has more in common with the latter.

Boulder Rocks

As written by Geoff Rodkey, who can be blamed (or thanked, if you prefer) for Daddy Day Care and this year’s remake of The Shaggy Dog, RV’s over-the-top tone is actually more in line with Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and that goofy lark’s color-saturated characters than necessarily a direct descendant of the Griswolds in National Lampoon’s Vacation.

It’s increasingly rare to see a major Hollywood release brandish a PG rating, but RV is such a case. Aside from one major gag involving the RV’s sewage system and one or two sly bits of innuendo, RV steers clear of the crude humor that has spoiled – or made – so many other recent comedies.

The end result, then, is a family comedy that, to some degree or another, most families should be able to relate to, even if that relation is merely recalling much smoother family vacations past.

With a not-too-preachy message about the sacrifices parents have to make in order to keep their kids in their expensive gadgets and activities – let alone college – RV makes for a decent piece of entertainment with some truly funny moments. As an added bonus, Williams finally gets his groove back as a comedian after a lengthy stint in straight dramas like Insomnia and Final Cut.

Nearly 25 years after Mork & Mindy, it’s nice to see Williams make his way back to Boulder for that fateful meeting with Gary & Larry, the Ben & Jerry of the soda set at Alpine Soda. Sporting extremely casual clothes and a granola’s sunny disposition, they also provide Bob with an important reminder: Even with all those family responsibilities, there’s still more to life than money.