RVs are rarely spotlighted in movies.
Over the years we’ve seen them in supporting roles in films like “About Schmidt,” “Meet the Fockers” and “Terminator 3.” And while actors have long used them in back lots for wardrobe changes, there hasn’t been a movie that has focused on the RV lifestyle.
On April 28, a new flic called “RV” will hit theaters across North America. It’s a comedy starring Robin Williams in the lead role as a stressed out father who feels his family — wife and two kids — have lost touch with each other amidst their Southern California lifestyle. They argue, get on each other’s nerves and lack quality time together.
So they decide to go on a vacation to Hawaii to unwind. But a problem arises when Williams’ character finds out that he needs to be in Colorado for a business meeting the week they’ll be gone. Not only can they not go to Hawaii at that time, but they may have to sacrifice their vacation as well! Then Williams gets an idea — a way they can still go on vacation, spend time together and see America by renting a motorhome. And the fun begins.
Make no mistake. “RV” is a comedy, a light-hearted movie in which Jeff Daniels, (“Terms of Endearment” and “Dumb and Dumber”) is one of the supporting actors. It’s a story about the family and their experiences in trying to do the little things like safely backing up the motorhome and dumping the unit’s holding tanks.
Clearly, the movie takes some liberties and exaggerates some of the things that go wrong. In the process, however, it may remind experienced RV travelers of some of the missteps each of them might have encountered in taking their first few trips and, of course, how other RVers often came to their rescue.
Barry Sonnenfeld, who directed “Men in Black,” “Men in Black II” and “Get Shorty,” among others films, says the idea for the movie came from producers Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher, who took an RV trip about 10 years ago and loved it. In fact, they enjoyed the driving, camping and mobile lifestyle to the extent that they hired a writer to compose this script, which, as it turns out, Sonnenfeld liked as well.
“I’ve camped, and my wife’s family camped,” said Sonnenfeld, who took the crew into British Columbia and Alberta for filming and whose family is affiliated with the Good Sam Club. “For me, because of camping, I know how friendly people are.”
Six identical Forest River Class A’s were used — one emblazoned with the words “Rent Me” on the side, another with a sidewall cut out for interior shots. One was driven into a lake, though only after it’s transmission and nearly all other essential elements had been removed.
All cast members had to take RV driving lessons because, as Sonnenfeld noted, several scenes were shot looking through the windshield, meaning professional drivers could not be used.
For Daniels, who plays an over-friendly RVer named Travis Gornicke whose family befriends Williams, the driving lessons were unnecessary. He and wife Kathleen have been RV enthusiasts for years and currently own a 40-foot Gulf Stream Tour Master. In fact, they drove from Michigan to the set in Canada and stayed in their upscale unit the whole time.
“This was a movie I had to be a part of,” confides Daniels, whose character becomes a pest to Williams, but winds up saving his hide on more than one occasion. “It was calling me. When I heard about it, I said, ‘I’m perfect for this.’ And the character I play loves RVs as much as I do.”
So, for Daniels it was all fun.
“Other actors learn how to fly planes,” he said, “but I like RVs.”
Williams, whose career has spanned nearly 30 years as an actor, director, producer and writer, was familiar with motorhomes and trailers only to the extent that he’d used them on film sets. But this movie opened his eyes to their benefits. “Once you realize how wide the turning radius is, you’re OK,” he said of his driving lesson. “It backs a wall up if you take it too tight.”
Williams, whose career rocketed after appearing in the popular “Mork and Mindy” TV series in the ’70’s, said he not only came to appreciate the flexibility RVs afford, but also the friendliness of the RVers he met while filming “RV.”
Some of them may, it appears, resemble Daniels’ character.
“Jeff’s character is over-friendly, but you meet a lot of really sweet people (in the RVing community),” said Williams. “It’s kind of like an old version of a covered wagon: People get to camps and there’s a sense of temporary, or even a long-term, community.”
RVs are rarely spotlighted in movies.