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Top 10 Charlie Chaplin Films November 13, 2009

Posted by Daniel Stephens in : Comedy, 1940s, 1950s, Drama, Top 10s, Film reviews, Short Film , add a comment

In my latest Top 10 list I look at Charlie Chaplin’s best films from his early short silent work to the longer feature-length “talkies”.

Charlie Chaplin was not just a silent movie actor, he was an icon of early cinema. Chaplin was a writer, director, performer, producer, as well as composer, and the co-founder of revolutionary studio United Artists.

He learnt his knack for comedy working in travelling vaudeville shows, performing with musicians, magicians, dancers, comedians, and even animals. His live material would be honed directly for the cinema when he started making films for Keystone Studios in the early 1910s. Early two-reel films, which Chaplin wrote and directed such as “The Tramp” and “Easy Street”, showed plenty of potential in the man who had yet to see his thirtieth birthday. His films were based on slapstick routines that were very carefully orchestrated and performed. His unique talent had a richness of character and a rebellious yet caring heart. Read More

Top 10 Tom Hanks Movies of the 1980s October 26, 2009

Posted by Daniel Stephens in : Comedy, 1980s, Top 10s, Film reviews, Artfully Deranged, Genre , add a comment

From 1984 to 1989 Tom Hanks solidified himself as one of the Hollywood elite. Aside from a couple of more restrained dramas in the middle of the period showing his diversity and pre-cursing his later work, predominantly the films of the middle to late eighties highlighted Hanks’ natural gift for comedy. His characters were always loveable yet flawed creations that pulled at the heart strings while playing relentlessly on the funny bone.

For many, Tom Hanks’ body of comedic work during the 1980s was the actor’s finest and most enduring. Because of this Top10Films.co.uk presents the best Tom Hanks films between 1984 and 1989. Click HERE for the Top 10
Please visit my new site www.top10films.co.uk for other Top 10 lists

Juno (Reitman, USA/Canada, 2007) March 31, 2009

Posted by Daniel Stephens in : Comedy, 2000s, Drama, Film reviews , 1 comment so far

Dir. Jason Reitman; written by Diablo Cody; starring Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Allison Janney, J.K. Simmons, Olivia Thirlby, Eileen Pedde, Rainn[sic] Wilson, Emily Perkins

It’s obvious why Juno has been lavished with praise from critics and filmgoers alike. There’s a brilliant central performance from Ellen Page (who, while looking the sixteen years of her character, is a relative veteran of film and television having being in the business for more than ten years when Juno started shooting), and a terrifically idiosyncratic and perceptive screenplay from debut writer Diablo Cody. Cody’s script is defiantly gendered but that’s part of its charm: an intelligent, witty film of high school pregnancy that seeks to draw light on an under-nourished and important issue from the female perspective. And it works particularly well because Page is so beautifully immersed in the character of Juno – the girl who gets pregnant and decides instead of abortion she will allow a couple who can’t have children adopt her baby.

And that’s the central conceit of the story. Juno is an atypical sixteen year old teenager with her own oddball characteristics. She’s trying to find her own identity (Cody’s script never resorts to the sort cliche that gives the character all the answers by the closing credits) and her best friend Bleeker (Michael Cera) is trying to find his own too. One evening they decide to have sex and Juno gets pregnant. At first believing abortion is the only option, she gives up on the idea when she realises she can help a couple who cannot have children get their wish. That brings her to the attention of Vanessa (Jennifer Garner) and Mark (Jason Bateman), a successful suburban couple who desperately want children but can’t get pregnant. During the pregnancy Juno gets closer to the couple on an individual basis. She sees in Vanessa a love of children and of life, something she herself could not comprehend when contemplating abortion; while Mark is the sort of man Juno can relate to on a personal level, each having a love of music, horror movies, and pop-culture. And inevitably, Juno begins to come round to the idea pregnancy isn’t the life-destroying burden she thought it was.

It’s apparent in the film that no matter how you govern teenage sex, relationships - whether they be between a pair of sixteen year olds losing their virginity or a thirty-something married couple - don’t always work the way you’d like them to. That, in itself, isn’t very profound, but Cody stylishly places it in the same bracket as the vilification of abortion and teenager sex and the inherent hypocrisy in conservative ideology on the subject. The film treats young people with a lot of respect, as it does the single parent, in that because an adult couple may have financial security, they may not have security in their relationship. Juno breaks down those sugar-coated ideals of the perfect American family and lays them bare for a young audience to interpret them as they see fit.

There’s a great dynamic between Juno and Mark in that they appear more compatible as a couple than he and Vanessa. They share the same taste in music and films, and Juno is fascinated by Mark’s job as a songwriter. It’s obvious that Mark sees in Juno the youthful exuberance he once had. He feels the baby may stifle his own creative desires, and the thought of impending responsibility frightens him. Indeed, it’s interesting how Cody sees the man as the most perturbed over the whole adoption, even more so than expectant mother Juno. Director Jason Reitman brilliantly displays Juno and Mark’s relationship, hinting at physical attraction, but above all showing the fragile nature of so-called love and marriage. In a way, it’s the insecurity of security.

But the film works so well because of the performance of Ellen Page. She’s irresistibly good – it’s the sort of standout performance akin to Jon Heder in Napoleon Dynamite that places a young actor on the proverbial map. Aside from both films being named after their teenager title characters, Juno shares a lot in common with Jared Hess’ high school nerd Napoleon. These characters are ostracized by their peers, and have become disillusioned with the monotony of their lives. And, both films celebrate the idea of the individual over socially acceptable clique. No less importantly, they both also feature fantastic alternative rock soundtracks. Page embodies Juno’s idiosyncrasies as if she had lived the character in a previous life – she’s tenacious, cool, smart and quick-thinking, but she’s also troubled, mindful of her own responsibility but proactive in her mistakes. Page has the look of a young actress but the quality and command of an experienced one.

Juno is a measured, thoughtful, and insightful commentary on modern teenager life, relationships, sex, and pregnancy. Diablo Cody’s brilliant script is funny and tragic, drawing on a very authentic representation of its characters with the sumptuous Juno at its centre. With Ellen Page’s commanding yet beautifully mannered performance, Juno is destined to become one of the most talked about teen comedy-dramas of the decade.

Rating: 5 out of 5

The Heartbreak Kid (Farrelly/Farrelly, USA, 2007) March 30, 2009

Posted by Daniel Stephens in : Comedy, 2000s, Film reviews, Romance , add a comment

I wouldn’t begin to entertain the idea the team of Farrelly and Farrelly needed a hit: they’ve given us some of the finest slapstick comedies of the 1990s, but The Heartbreak Kid arrives at time when the Farrelly product has lost some of its shine.

Give the comedy writer-director-producer duo some credit. They helped launch the careers of Jim Carrey and Ben Stiller, released one of the most successful comedies of the 1990s in There’s Something About Mary, and one of the decades finest in Dumb and Dumber. But their brand of humour, based on the most simple and obvious elements of social and cultural dysfunction was wearing thin even before the 90s came to an end. If Me, Myself and Irene’s split-personality Jim Carrey could be forgiven because it held at its core an endearing romantic relationship thanks to Renee Zellweger’s love interest, it was ultimately, a Carrey cash-in. When… [MORE]

Stalag 17 (Wilder, USA, 1953) March 26, 2009

Posted by Daniel Stephens in : Comedy, 1950s, Drama, Film reviews , add a comment

Stalag 17 (Wilder, USA, 1953) Dir. Billy Wilder; starring William Holden, Don Taylor, Otto Preminger, Robert Strauss, Harvey Lembeck, Richard Erdman, Peter Graves, Neville Brand, Sig Ruman, Michael Moore, Peter Baldwin

Stalag 17 arrived only a couple of years after writer-director Billy Wilder saw his social commentary Ace In The Hole receive a muted reception from critics and filmgoers alike. It was a daring project to undertake - the remnants of world war were still very evident in 1953, and the setting for a comedic drama in a German prison camp could easily be misconstrued as insensitive or even naive. But Stalag 17 is neither. Wilder, who was deeply affected by the war (born in what is now Poland, he lived in Berlin for a time before fleeing Germany after the rise of Adolf Hitler. His mother, stepfather, and grandmother were all killed at the Auschwitz concentration camp) sees these American prisoners in a unique and entertaining light - as racketeers and petty mischief’s. They make the best of a bad situation, while their escape attempts and clandestine bureaucracy give them a sense of hope; that they can still contribute to the war effort where their participation in the battle is almost certainly at an end.

What may have become cliche later - with the popular appeal of Steve McQueen-fronted The Great Escape, and the iconic stars of Escape To Victory - Stalag 17 was a fresh-faced, uniquely written, and assuredly directed film about life in a prison-of-war camp. Wilder may overlook some of the darker attributes of Nazi occupation, but the cynicism he portrays through William Holden’s Sefton is a perfect indictment of the human condition when basic liberties are rescinded.

Sefton is the sort of love-hate character that instantly draws your attention and maintains it - some of his actions are repugnant but at the same time you can, perhaps begrudgingly, relate to the motivation. The film begins with the escape attempt of two sergeants. Sefton takes bets on their survival, putting his own money (or cigarettes in this case) on them failing. When the sirens begin to sound and gunshots are heard the fate of the two prisoners is obvious. Sefton wins the bet. Believing there’s a “stoolie” in their ranks, since the German’s always seem to be one step ahead of their plans, Sefton becomes the prime suspect. He is far too complacent when betting against the escape attempt, and his constant trading with the guards for extra privileges is held in contempt by hisfellow inmates because he only benefits himself.

Holden, who actually pleaded with Wilder during principle photography to make Sefton more likeable, was rightly awarded the Oscar for best actor in 1954. Holden didn’t get his way with the character however, seeing Sefton’s selfish ego betray the trust of his fellow prisoners. But Wilder wants you to despise Sefton - whether for his lack of patriotism or his disregard for others - because it’s in this that his character becomes totally captivating. Again, it goes back to the idea that you don’t have to like someone to understand their motivation. When Sefton is beaten up because the rest of the camp believe he’s the bad guy, he’s forced to find the real culprit the only way he knows how: through self preservation. Wilder allows Sefton to achieve vindication but his actions throughout remain conceited and self aware. And that’s the beauty of Stalag 17 - how it takes your conception of conventional morality and asks you to become complicit in its subversion.

But Stalag 17 is more than just a film about Sefton. Wilder combines the talents of an excellent ensemble of actors to create a real sense camaraderie and friendship amongst the inmates. They even have a playful relationship with the guards (where Wilder doesn’t resort to the sort of Spielberg Manichean mentality that sees all German soldiers as uncompromisingly evil purveyors of Hitler’s every whim) and Sig Ruman’s portrayal of Col. Von Scherbach provides some of the films funniest moments. However, Wilder does allow Robert Strauss as prison idiot Stanislas “Animal” Kasava to go over the top with his neurotic shenanigans and obsession with the female inmates of a nearby women’s prison camp. I found Marko the Mailman’s high-pitched “At ease, at ease” statement before every sentence far funnier.

Stalag 17 isn’t Wilder’s best film nor is it his most authentic. But then again sub-par Wilder is better than most. Most importantly, the film is hugely entertaining, funny, and tragic: that perfect blend of attributes Wilder seamlessly finds in every story he points his camera at.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Three and Out (Jonathan Gershfield, UK, 2008) March 22, 2009

Posted by Daniel Stephens in : Comedy, 2000s, Film reviews , add a comment

Dir. Jonathan Gershfield; starring MacKenzie Crook, Colm Meaney, Imelda Staunton, Gemma Arterton

As an amiable comic character offering diverting, often amusing sidekick turns to Hollywood big boys, Mackenzie Crook has carved a niche as Britain’s current exponent of the craft. Finding fame and fortune as the churlish idiot in Ricky Gervais’ genius BBC sitcom The Office, Crook’s saturnine impulses have transposed well across the Pacific with stand out moments in Pirates of the Caribbean and The Brothers Grimm. But, like any great endeavour, there comes a time when we all have to go it alone. Gervais has shown his old pal the way. Now, with Jonathan Gershfield in the director’s chair, Crook sheds the support act in favour of the limelight.

Crook plays Paul Callow, a London underground train driver, who has the unfortunate misfortune of killing two despondent travellers when they fling themselves in front of his locomotive. Finding out his employers offer a payout if any driver manages to dispose of three people in a single month (the mental trauma being too much to take of course), Paul sets out to find a suicidal maniac willing to exchange London Bridge for Oxford Circus station and the 10.05 to Notting Hill. Finding Colm Meaney’s Tommy Cassidy perched precariously on one of London’s overpasses, Paul persuades the bedraggled man to change his suicide plans. Tommy, at the end of his tether, agrees on the basis he can right some of his wrongs during the few days he has left.

The film essentially plays on the old buddy theme. Paul accompanies Tommy when he visits an old friend to recapture a valuable ring he once lost, and later the pair head to Tommy’s family home in search of his wife and daughter. Along the way they learn broken dreams and heartbreak aren’t uncommon. In that sense, the film offers nothing new, basing its story on what is a macabre premise, but the Crook and Meaney make it work with energetic performances. Meaney, the sort of actor you’ve seen a hundred times but can’t put a name to, makes Tommy a likeable rogue even if he’s self-defeating attitude abrogates life.

Crook’s unruffled persona driven by the promise of financial gain and the beautiful hillside cottage he craves is the perfect foil to Tommy’s cynicism. The introduction of Imelda Staunton adds gravitas to an already experienced cast, while a surprisingly scene-stealing turn from ex-Atomic Kitten Kerry Katona provides one of the films most amusing moments.

Three and Out sees director Jonathan Gershfield transition from the television arena (directing such BBC comedies as sketch show Big Train and cultural satire Dead Ringers) to feature length film. Consequently, he shows a competent grasp of situational comedy. One of the film’s best scenes sees the intrepid twosome break into a house looking for Tommy’s cherished ring. Finding the ring on a sleeping woman’s finger, Tommy squirts soap on her hand in an attempt to get it off. All this is done in the dark whilst trying not to wake the woman and her husband. Of course, their silent fumbling doesn’t stay quiet for long. When the sleeping couple awake, and Tommy and Paul duck under the bed, she inadvertently misinterprets the soap on her hand and face for something quite different, turning to her husband with a disdainful expression. It’s a moment of immature sexual innuendo but it works perfectly well.

Yet, Gershfield’s talents don’t stretch to being able to cover up holes in the plot. Nor does he manage the tone of the film with the sort of assuredness shown in the more comedic sequences. If the predictability of the plot doesn’t let the film down, the rather downbeat ending certainly does. And, while Gershfield tries to overcome this with a contrived love story (with Gemma Arterton’s limited range), the conclusion betrays the lightweight misadventures and heartfelt friendship built up between Paul and Tommy. For a film that ultimately looks at the upside of assisted suicide, the conclusion could have been handled with more care.

Three and Out, like star MacKenzie Crook, is amiable, diverting, and often very funny. While it suffers from a plot that doesn’t work and a muddled tone, the performances of the principle cast give it a likable energy that is endearing and at times heartwarming.

Rating: 3 out of 5

In Bruges (Martin McDonagh, UK/USA, 2008) March 9, 2009

Posted by Daniel Stephens in : Comedy, 2000s, Drama, Film reviews, Crime , add a comment

Dir. Martin McDonagh; starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes

In Bruges is a curious film from fledgling English director Martin McDonagh. It tells the tale of two contract killers holed up in the historic Belgium city of the film’s title awaiting further orders after a botched assassination. However, interestingly rather than detrimentally, the film plays much like an action movie without any action, as if the more lively aspects of the plot happen before the movie begins and after it finishes. Unsurprisingly, it’s because of this the film is hard to place in a conventional sense. And, ultimately, it’s all the better for it.

Colin Farrell plays Ray, a man who has found his calling under the tutelage of hit-man veteran Ken (Brendan Gleeson). The pair check into a Bruges hotel booked for them by boss Harry Waters (Ralph Fiennes) after completing a mission in London. McDonagh plays on the generation gap between Ray and Ken: they’re like father and son on holiday together. Ray can’t stand Bruges, it doesn’t offer him any excitement. Ken, on the other hand, loves the preserved city and its historic buildings and picturesque cobbled streets.

But Ken sees something in Ray’s youthful vitality that mirrors his own introduction to the world of contract killing. He also sees the pain and anguish that first got his young student into the game, and which was exacerbated by his accidental killing of a child on his first assignment. McDonagh focuses all his early attention on this parental-like relationship between the two hit-men, providing some lovely moments of endearing humour and poignant sadness.

The film’s pedestrian pace shows its roots in the western genre. In Bruges is very much a thinly-veiled European-based western in the conventional sense: it has the anti-hero characters fighting a cause beneath the law, the one town setting which the hit-men walk into at the beginning of the film, and the final shoot out. But McDonagh never allows the film, even during the almost plot-less first half, to become… [More]

Full review posted HERE

The Benchwarmers (Dennis Dugan, 2006, USA) March 2, 2008

Posted by Daniel Stephens in : Comedy, 2000s, Film reviews , add a comment

Dir. Dennis Dugan; screenplay by Allen Covert/Nick Swardson; starring Rob Schneider, David Spade, Jon Heder, Jon Lovitz, Craig Kilborn, Molly Sims

I’ve been very critical of director Dennis Dugan over the last few years. Who could blame me? He gave the world the awful Saving Silverman and followed it up with the spiteful racial slurs of National Security (a film that embodied bad taste). So, with trepidation I began to watch his 2006 film The Benchwarmers with little in the way of expectation. What I learned was with a good script and some energetic performances, Dugan can turn out a decent movie. In fact, this is the best film he’s made since Happy Gilmore.

The film concerns grown-up ‘nerds’ Gus (Scheider), Richie (Spade), and Clark (Heder) who, after witnessing a helpless kid getting bullied by the little league baseball team, decide to form the ‘Benchwarmers’. With the help of billionaire Mel (Lovitz) they start a baseball competition in order to beat the little league teams who won’t let the weirdos, geeks, and computer nerds play ball.

Essentially, and the main reason the film is so delightfully entertaining, is that it’s basically about adults beating the hell out of scrawny little teenagers. There’s a fabulous moment when Richie gets his first hit. Remembering the jibes the chubby, young catcher had given him, he rounds third base and decides, instead of going easy on the twelve year old, he’ll jump in the air and fly, feet first, straight into his head mask. The child, dazed and obviously confused, hits the floor semi-unconscious. Talk about pulling no punches. There’s a great undercurrent to the humour in that it utilises childish sarcasm and silly physical comedy in a way that mocks the stereotypes inherent in young culture. The film accepts that children can be very cruel to both other children and adults due to their less-informed and polarized, pop-culture dominated view on the world, and basically mocks them for it. It’s refreshing to see a film that sheds the innocence of childhood, and The Benchwarmers certainly reminds of that other cynical baseball movie The Bad News Bears with Walter Mathau.

The film also seems to be made by a group of people either, continuously high on something or, thanks to the catering crew, given a diet consisting of far too much sugar during production. You can only applaud the introduction of baseball legend Reggie Jackson with an old photo depicting a young Reggie with a huge afro, or Jon Lovitz’s mechanical butler who delivers any sandwich your heart desires from its plastic belly. You’ve also got to love the billionaire’s home which is decked out with Star Wars figures, and made to look like the dinner hall from the Starship Enterprise. When Lovitz turns up in Kit from Knightrider you know the film is celebrating the sort of nerd-culture that makes some unfortunate children the target for spiteful bullies.

You’ve also got to give the film credit for the performances, especially Jon Heder (from Napoleon Dynamite fame) who is basically a twelve year old in a twenty year old body. He is the highlight of the movie with some wonderfully sardonic asides. Amongst many excellent moments there’s a great scene when Heder, whose favourite meal is macaroni, asks what steroids are, and gets the reply that it makes your ‘Pee Pee’ smaller. Heder suddenly has a revelation and says, ‘there must be steroids in macaroni!’.

The Benchwarmers is a delightful comedy that, while the kids laugh at the insane nature of it all, adults will be chuckling in the background thinking they can finally get their own back on the pesky little tearaways. Dugan allows the film to get preachy towards the end but it moves along at quite pace, clocking in at under eighty minutes, so hardly outstays its welcome. It’s refreshing, crazy at times, cynical throughout, and sweet when it needs to be, but above all else, it’s one funny movie.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Rounders (John Dahl, 1998, USA) February 18, 2008

Posted by Daniel Stephens in : Comedy, 1990s, Drama, Film reviews, Crime, Sports , 3 comments

Dir. John Dahl; screenplay by David Levien and Brian Koppelman; starring Matt Damon, Edward Norton, John Malkovich, John Turturro, Gretchen Mol, Famke Janssen

Rounders, a film about Poker culture and the people who are involved (directly and indirectly) with the highs and lows of the game, could be a definitive Hollywood expose on the game’s new-age popularity if it wasn’t let down by wayward characterizations and poor plotting.

Mike McDermott (Matt Damon) is a great player who lost all his money and quit the game. When his best friend Worm (Edward Norton) gets out of prison owing money to the wrong sorts of people, Mike is forced back into the game he loves but at the cost of putting both his friendship, and his relationship to girlfriend Jo (Gretchen Mol), on the line.

The film is blessed with good performances – certainly from Norton (as usual) and Damon – but also from the excellent supporting cast including John Malkovich, Martin Landau, and John Turturro. Director John Dahl, who has given us such enjoyable films as Joy Ride, also gets the poker action spot-on, not just providing us with Texas Hold ‘Em but other forms of the game too. For people not versed in the game’s rules, etiquette, and slang, he throws in a whistle stop lesson, seamlessly interspersed in the action so as to not lose part of the audience. Indeed, when Rounders is concentrating on the game, it’s a winning formula of tension and ballsy attitude built on smoke-filled, sweat-drenched bluffs and high stakes.

Yet, Dahl’s control of the supporting characters lets the film down with both Mike’s relationship to his long-term girlfriend and, more importantly, his friendship with Edward Norton’s Worm, allowed to drift into the ether with no sense of closure. In fact, Norton simply disappears with twenty minutes remaining, his character becoming simply a passing mention in the film’s closing moments.

Yet, Rounders, despite its flaws, is an enjoyable, fast-paced sports-drama that will entice new fans to the game and make established Poker players salivating for their next big win.

Rating: 3 out of 5

R.V. (Barry Sonnenfeld, 2006, USA) June 1, 2007

Posted by Daniel Stephens in : Comedy, 2000s, Film reviews, Action/Adventure , add a comment

Dir. Barry Sonnenfeld; screenplay by Geoff Rodkey; starring Robin Williams, JoJo, Cheryl Hines, Jeff Daniels, Kristin Chenoweth

I’m not saying my sister has bad taste in films, I’m just saying our tastes differ, and when she recommended Robin Williams’ 2006 film R.V. to me, I had some reservations. I had seen the trailer and liked what I’d seen but thought surely it was a low-grade National Lampoon’s Vacation with childish humour that didn’t equate very well with an adult audience. After watching it, in many respects I was right, but Sonnenfeld is a director who for me personally, makes three bad films to every good one, and while R.V. might be bereft of the wry sarcasm and ensemble selection of characters from Harold Ramis’ National Lampoon’s Vacaton, it maintains the fish-out-of-water histrionics and innocent, familial values that made the aforementioned film so endearing. R.V. isn’t a great film, but it certainly doesn’t deserve to be ignored by anyone wanting ninety minutes of escapist fun. Yes, it’s aimed at young teens, and it’s slot on Sunday afternoon television is already assured, but Robin Williams has a ball with his character (getting back into comedy after several dramatic roles), and while the humour might not be to everyone’s liking (indeed, comedy can be such a fickle genre to review), I found myself getting caught up in the physical eccentricities of it all and really warming to it.

The film reminded me of a few eighties movies, perhaps the reason I liked it so much. It has an obvious homage to Richard Donner’s The Goonies when the family of characters find themselves falling down a rain-soaked hill that looks uncannily like a waterslide. There’s a little bit of Parenthood in there, and most certainly National Lampoon’s Vacation. Indeed, the film takes on the very same ideals, which make it interesting for parents who watch it with their kids. The film begins with Robin Williams’ character Bob Munro telling his very young daughter that they will be the best of friends forever. We then cut to several years later when the daughter is a rebellious fifteen year old who not ‘hates’ her father. Munro finds himself being alienated from his family – he works too much and doesn’t get to spend time with his wife, while his son struggles to come to terms with is small stature, and his daughter desperately seeks individualism. Munro himself can’t really understand where it all went wrong. He started a family and, effectively, in working hard to support it, has become a bit-part player. This sets up the vacation, which Munro uses as a ruse to get to a business meeting he doesn’t want to tell his wife about. Throughout the journey, Munro begins to bond with his family and learn about himself, especially the value of a family unit.

You could easily say it’s pretty rudimentary storytelling, almost contrived, and it is to a certain degree, but Sonnenfeld keeps the pace up and never allows the film’s message to become preachy. Where it falls down is in the characters beyond Munro, who are little more than caricatures. His wife is dutiful but wants the exuberance of their early relationship to come back, his son and daughter are both rebellious but all they really need is some tender loving care from their father; it’s uninspired and seriously hampers the film on multiple viewings. But what makes the film so watchable is Williams, who energises the movie with his great physical humour, his love of comedy excreting from every pore.

R.V. is enjoyable in a innocent, childlike, Sunday-dinner-round-the-table, type of way. If nothing else, it’ll keep the kids happy for a couple of hours.

Rating: 3 out of 5

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