RV Barry Sonnenfeld

Thanks to some above average direction by a veteran hand at comedy, this family vacation disaster movie is better than it absolutely had any right to be. Still, it’s nothing that won’t be familiar to anyone who’s been within ten miles of a movie theatre since the 1980s.

Robin Williams is the familiar beleaguered patriarch; his job is on the line if he doesn’t cancel his upcoming family vacation, which he’s loath to do in light of his strained parent/child relationships. Instead of breaking the bad news to the fam, he rents an RV and takes the trip to the general vicinity of a crucial acquisition meeting, without telling his family, of course. That Murphy’s law rules is pretty much par for the course: the rental vehicle proves recalcitrant, incurs much damage and, in one scene, spews a terrible amount of septic goo, with further discomfort being provided by hick Jeff Daniels and his own travelling family.

Barry Sonnenfeld gets as much out of the bourgeois nightmare chestnuts as can possibly be expected to — unlike other directors of brightly lit comedy, he wants to time the jokes right and achieve a modicum of style. But as Pauline Kael might say, "he’s giving an old tart a new complexion” and no amount of visual dress-up can mask the familiarity of the material and the obviousness of its deployment.

The path from parental humiliation to domestic enlightenment is a well-trodden one, and Williams breaks no new ground on the trip — by the end, he’s learned valuable lessons that belong in the pages of Reader’s Digest, despite the fact that the narrative crisis could have been averted by our man ’fessing up to his motives at the beginning. A relatively painless roll from Malibu to Colorado, but not at all a memorable one. (Sony)