I've read reviews of RV, and they uniformly panned the movie as piffle; humorous tripe that reinforced family values and light humor, wasting the talents of Robin Williams.
Give me a break.
See, the implication that the family road trip movie is somehow a form of high art is fallacious to begin with. Although my family (and my wife's family) venerates the National Lampoon vacation movies as the ultimate in comedy, the truth of the matter is it's all a string of silly gags and ridiculous foils. It takes real skill to play a perpetually optimistic patriarch in the face of modern indignities and family squabbles. If anything, the family road trip movie is really just a condensed version of half the sitcoms on television. And there's a reason those sitcoms are still around, even though the critics patiently explain over and over how dumb they are.
They're right. It IS dumb. But then, so is having to deal with the inanities of modern life. RV is merely an update of a long established tradition of pitting a man (Bob Munro played by Robin Williams), his hot wife (Cheryl Hines), his teenage daughter (Joanna Levesque) and pre-teen son (Josh Hutcherson) against the world and seeing who comes out on top. And we root for Bob all the way.
What makes RV so appealing is that it doesn't deviate at all from the formula but cleverly updates all the trials and tribulations. Bob's affection for his adorable daughter at two years old is sharply contrasted by her wisecracking personality as a teenager. How many parents stare at their kids and wonder what happened to the darling who never wanted to leave their side? Bob's career hinges on finishing a presentation, and much of the movie is taken up with his personal struggle to find a signal for his Blackberry. Road warriors feel his pain. And as an older, funnier man, Bob constantly has to watch his back as younger, inexperienced climbers try to steal the spotlight.
In short, the Monroe struggles are the new struggles of the middle class. Sure, Clark Griswold didn't have these problems, but then the National Lampoon movies were made decades ago. RV brings it all up to date with one difference: unlike Cousin Eddie and his brood, the country folk are actually the wiser and more decent family. We could learn a lot from their home values, preaches Brother Sonnenfeld. Maybe he's right.
When RV was playing at my parents' house, we were waiting for my brother to join us to watch a DVD. Instead, we watched (and laughed at) RV all the way through.