Faith in Hollywood: Up Close with Kristin Chenoweth
Not since the National Lampoon vacation movies with Chevy Chase has a family vacation been as much fun as RV. Starring Robin Williams, Cheryl Hines, Jeff Daniels and Kristen Chenoweth, the movie is a laugh out loud, good time that won’t leave families disappointed.
While the movie resembles the 1954 classic The Long Long Trailer, starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, the story stands on its own. Though it's not a remake, it has enough similarities to interest film buffs and Lucille Ball fans.
RV centers on Bob Monro (Robin Williams), an overworked family man who has forgotten the joys of fatherhood. Though he once played 'kissie monster' with his daughter and enjoyed every free moment with his wife, his family life has taken a drastic turn. With Bob’s focus on his job, the family has grown further apart. It's a turn many families in America take when they care more about possessions than relationship.
One day at work, Bob is told he has to cancel his family's Hawaiian vacation so he can attend a business meeting in Colorado. Lacking the courage to stand up to his boss and afraid of being fired, he tries to satisfy both employer and family by renting an RV and taking the family with him. But cancelling Hawaii for a trip in a lime green RV with “Rent Me” on the side is not his family's idea of a fun vacation. They're not even out of the driveway before an abundance of problems for the family, and laughter for the audience, erupts.
Along the way, they meet the Gornicke family. Travis Gornicke, played by Jeff Daniels, and the voluptuous Marie Jo, played by Kristin Chenoweth, are as much fun to the Monros as a flat tire in a Kansas thunderstorm. They've given up all of life's luxuries to travel around America in their RV. They homeschool their children, see the sights, and enjoy playing music together and meeting new folks. It's nice to see Daniels, a musician in his own right, playing a musician on screen.
The Gornickes are to RV what Cousin Eddie and his family was to the National Lampoon vacations. Thankfully, Barry Sonnenfeld, through his wonderful direction, presents them with more respect and less gross-out humor. While Cousin Eddie was a bumbling idiot, the Gornickes are a family that can be appreciated, liked, and learned from.
Usually a movie like this will show you all of the funny bits in the trailers. Rest assured, these trailers don’t touch the tip of the iceberg. While there are moments of adult humor, they are generally mild, and nothing that would embarrass a family with smaller children. In fact the humor in the movie is one of the primary reasons even small children in attendance were engaged. It was nice to sit through a PG rated film and see an all-ages audience appreciate it so fully.
Beneath the humor of RV is a powerful underlying theme. It addresses the relationships within families in a thought provoking way. The writer, Geoff Rodkey, has improved greatly on past efforts including The Shaggy Dog and Daddy Day Care. The journey isn't just for the work-obsessed father, but also his children. As a parent myself, it was a beautiful thing to see develop. Not only do we see redemption in the father, but in the children as well. Bob find ways to relate to his children, and the children learn lessons about honor, respect of parents, love, and not casting judgment upon others. There is also a clear message in the film that each individual is responsible for their actions. RV seems to be a movie intended for families where families were actually taken into consideration.
As Bob and his wife begin to see what is important, I was reminded of Mark 8:36, “What will you gain, if you own the whole world but destroy yourself?” At the point where the Monros might lose what's really important, they begin to understand this. In our own journeys, there are people and things pointing us in the right direction, but the things that we need most are often so foreign we stay away from them.
RV is an illustration of what many of us have become - so focused on possessions that we've forgotten what's really important. We've forgotten our marital relations, the joy of tucking our children into bed with a kiss or playing catch with our son. Instead, we are so focused on work and the things we obtain - our lap tops, Blackberries, and Ipods. Our family, like the Monros, may be falling apart but we're so preoccupied with work we can’t figure out why.
There are many good things about RV, but none better than its underlying theme of family. Because of the humor and touching themes, as well as Sonnenfeld's masterful direction, it could be one of the year's surprise hits. I’m planning on taking my own family to see it again and my wife has already told me that it will be a DVD that she watches over and over again like I have with National Lampoon. The difference though, is that this is a family I can respect. A family I can learn from, not just laugh at. In the end, the Monros are family.
On a scale of 1-10, for the total number of people in the Monro and Gornicke Families, I give RV a very enjoyable 9.