starring Robin Williams, Jeff Daniels, Cheryl Hines, Joanna “JoJo” Levesque, Josh Hutcherson and Kristin Chenoweth
written by Geoff Rodkey
directed by Barry Sonnenfeld
This is an okay comedy, but not a great one. Sure, watch it if you are a fan of Robin Williams, or Jeff Daniels, or of teenage pop music superstar JoJo Levesque. It is a comical story about the misadventures of a family traveling cross country to Denver, Colorado in their rented recreational vehicle - what is called a “Camping Car” in Japan. It took me a long time to notice director Barry Sonnenfeld’s face in the movie. He appears as the 9-foot face of RV dealer Irv, painted on the side of the bus all through the film. I had never seen his face before, so I didn’t realize who it was I was seeing until I watched the special features on the DVD.
I grew up in the 1970s in a family that traveled in an RV - “the bus,” a 9-meter-long fiberglass Dodge Travco bus. My Dad loved that thing. First he rented it for use on a family March Break trip to Florida. But then he enjoyed it so much that he bought it from the dealer in Cambridge, Ontario. As a family we had a lot of fun, went to a lot of places, and saw North American by road from coast-to-coast, border-to-border. So I perceive that my childhood experience in the Bus largely motivated me to rent this DVD.
They say that families are a curse as well as a blessing, and a person doesn’t have to look so far as the breakdown of traditional social mores, religious belief and custom for the culprit as to the family itself. Yes, the family, the very unit of social healing touted by American Conservative Christians, Fundamentalists and political conservatives. It is the family more than anything else that is the source of our social pathologies, not the victim of them. And they say that when the family is too closely confined for too long - as in a road trip by car, or in an RV - then they get to know/despise each other very well. The premise that familiarity breeds contempt (and in the end cohesive bonding) is the premise of the comedy in RV. The family suffers together in the bus, but in the end they can also laugh together about their terrible experiences and end up bonding beautifully.
But that wasn’t my experience of traveling in a bus with my family during he 1970s. Or, at least, it is not my memory of my experience. The Bus wasn’t so bad, and I always looked forward to family trips.