Do you enjoy a good story with compelling and memorable heroes and heroines? This monthly column features homeschooled characters in literature and film. Wish you had your own copy of the book or movie? Just click on the product image or text links to go to the author’s site or Amazon to buy it!
By Tab Olsen
The RV movie (also known as Runaway Vacation) is a 2006 family comedy starring Cheryl Hines, Joanna “JoJo” Levesque, Josh Hutcherson, Kristin Chenoweth, Jeff Daniels, and the late Robin Williams. Although RV is rated PG for some language, innuendo, and bathroom humor, it’s actually pretty tame compared to most comedic movies these days. There is a quite a bit of comic peril and violence, but no one gets hurt in this lighthearted road trip adventure.
RV isn’t a classic by any stretch of the imagination, and the main characters are more like superficial caricatures, but the good thing about this movie is that it does show a favorable view of homeschoolers. At first you might think the movie is making fun of the homeschooling Gornicke family who are relentlessly cheerful and say things like “Do you wanna hear about the time Jesus saved us from a tornado?” Yet despite their quirkiness, they are portrayed as intelligent, charitable, honest, and close. And of course the homeschooled kids are advanced for their age, but they’re not stuck up. This homeschool family is like the opposite of the Duggars, as the mom wears some really low-cut tops. The Munro family didn’t like the Gornickes at first and thought they were strange. But in the end, they wanted to RV and homeschool too!
As the story goes, Bob Munro (Robin Williams) is a successful California beverage company executive. But he has a dysfunctional family made up of his materialistic wife Jamie (Cheryl Hines), disrespectful teenage daughter Cassie (JoJo), and son Carl (Josh Hutcherson). Looking forward to a big family vacation in Hawaii, Bob is told that he has to attend a meeting with the Alpine Soda Company in Boulder, Colorado, or else be fired. So he rents an RV and tells the family that instead of flying to Hawaii they are going on a road trip to the Rockies – and of course he says those fateful words, “Come on, it’ll be fun!” I don’t know why he didn’t just tell his family the truth, but he tries to keep it secret that their vacation is actually a business trip.
On their trip, Bob and his family encounter many mishaps and challenges that enable the characters to reveal their personalities and learn various lessons along the way. These include damaging the parking brake, crashing into and running over objects such as shopping carts, flushing out a trio of raccoons with a stink bomb, and fixing a clogged sewage system (unfortunately this scene was far too long and wasn’t even funny).
While on the road they meet another traveling family, the Gornickes, consisting of Travis (Jeff Daniels), Mary Jo (Kristin Chenoweth), and their children, Earl (Hunter Parrish), Billy (Alex Ferris), and Moon (Chloe Sonnenfeld). Thinking that the Gornickes are too strange for them, Bob and Jamie decide to ditch them. Then when the Gornickes reappear at the next stop, the Munros believe they are stalking them.
Meanwhile, to disguise his business trip, Bob tries to e-mail a proposal outline from his laptop, working in rest stop bathrooms. When a hitchhiker steals Bob’s laptop, the Gornickes miraculously recover it after picking up the same hitchhiker, and pursue the Munro family to return it. That’s the way it is throughout the movie – the Gornikes keep showing up to help get Bob and his family out of trouble, persisting in being friendly and nice even when they’re treated rudely.
Eventually the Munros begin to enjoy their vacation. But in order to attend the meeting, Bob distracts his family by faking illness and sending them off on a hike. The meeting with Alpine Soda is a success, and Bob is invited to talk to the whole company again the next day. Rushing back to his family in the RV, he takes a treacherous four-wheel drive trail, getting the huge vehicle stuck atop a boulder. The situation was exaggerated for laughs, but since we ourselves are a four-wheeling road trip family, it was fun watching him figure out how to get it dislodged and then it was a riot to see what happened next.
At the second Alpine Soda meeting, Bob starts his speech – but then he suddenly has an epiphany and quits to go be with his family. Bob apologizes to them all, and they reveal that they love him more than the lifestyle his job gives them. As the credits roll, the two families are shown dancing to and singing the song “Route 66.” Some of the stuff in this movie was way over the top, but I liked how they did actually show homeschooling in a positive light. The RV movie also has a good message, that family togetherness is more important than having lots of money.