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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir Barry Sonnenfeld|
scr Geoff Rodkey
with Robin Williams, Cheryl Hines, Joanna 'JoJo' Levesque, Josh Hutcherson, Jeff Daniels, Kristin Chenoweth, Will Arnett, Hunter Parrish, Chloe Sonnenfeld, Alex Ferris, Brendan Fletcher, Richard Cox
release US 28.Apr.06, UK 9.Jun.06
06/US Columbia 1h38
Aboard the 'Big Rolling Turd': Hines, Hutcherson, Levesque and Williams
There's a deranged edginess that keeps this goofy comedy from being utterly unbearable. It's still far more silly than sublime, but it has its moments.
Bob Munro (Williams) is worried about his job, so to impress his intense boss (Arnett) he cancels the family holiday in Hawaii and instead rents a massive motor home for a family road trip to Colorado, where he plans to secretly do some important business. His wife (Hines) and teen kids (Levesque and Hutcherson) reluctantly go along. But they spend much of their time trying to avoid an obnoxious couple (Daniels and Chenoweth) who lives on the road with their kids (Parrish, Sonnenfeld and Ferris). Then in Colorado nothing goes to plan.
This is one of those juvenile movies that's full of goofy slapstick and gooey sentiment. Fortunately, Sonnenfeld directs it with just a slightly vicious tone, a nasty sense of comedy that occasionally makes up for all the poo jokes. He also makes sure the cast stay under control, never mugging for the camera Chevy Chase-style, although Williams gets dangerously close at times. Fortunately he reigns himself in just in time, while Hines offers a sparky foil, and both Levesque and Hutchison get some funny/strong moments as well.
This is a recognisably real family, and the way they have disconnected from each other is tangible. It's just the wacky antics in the RV that are completely over the top. Some scenes are just far too much, and sink the film deep into mediocrity or worse, dragging us away from the actual plot for some more far-fetched zaniness. And the happy-family moments aren't much better. Neither is the lesson learning, bonding with nature or swiping at corporate America.
That said, the film does manage to hit a few genuinely hilarious or sweet notes. And there are some surprisingly interesting characters along the way that show a willingness on the part of the writer to play with and subvert stereotypes. Although even that's rather obvious, when you think about it. And anyway, the film never really aspires to be anything but a madcap family holiday movie.
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© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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