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Family vacations: Living them is hard enough

Watching movies like ‘RV’ can be masochism for traumatized parents, kids
/ Source: contributor

Robin Williams, apparently fresh off swimming Scrooge McDuck-style through the heaps of cash he raked in with “Death to Smoochy,” now seeks to not-annoy us with “RV,” a family flick about… a family in an RV. Super! (But never despair!  He’ll be right back on track with “Mrs. Doubfire 2,” coming soon to a theater near you!)

Far be it from me to pan or recommend a movie I have not yet seen, but… the film’s official site includes a “Cleaning the Pipes” game, which invites players to purge an RV of personal waste.  Ah.

The metaphors are easy; the genre is not. Where the Griswolds went, few can follow.  Vacation movies are difficult things to foist upon an American public deeply traumatized by hours of the snap-shuffle-click of the slide projector.  Why pay to watch someone else’s two weeks of being traumatized at the hands of bears and flight attendants?

Given the fact that your average mobile home gets approximately eight inches to the gallon, the filmmakers’ choice of an RV as a main character is a fascinating one. Then again, where else could they turn?  As a nation, we’re running out of modes of transportation. 

Nobody flies anymore. The last time I was on a plane, the stewardess flung a packet of peanuts at me that read “MAY CONTAIN PEANUTS,” but I complained little, for I was simply glad to be in the air after a delay described at the gate as “due to some missing equipment.”  The missing equipment?  The plane.

Even station wagons are outré, thanks to the fact that deposits in the form of major organs are currently required to fill a quarter tank.  Next up: Summer flick about family of four cavorting across the nation on a solar-powered flatboat.  

Go east!And I do wish Hollywood would leave the American West alone whenever it desires to ponder Bonding By Vehicle. The great Four Corners states have done little to deserve such abuse.  “RV” is set largely in the Colorado Rockies, I suspect only because the Grand Canyon was already booked, what with Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis currently a greasespot at the bottom of it.

Why does no one drive east?  Let Delaware deal with Robin Williams. Give it something to do over the Fourth of July weekend.

Since driving east is not quite the fashion, my family — which also owned a Beta cassette player, a Texas Instruments home computer and stock in Intel — did it.  Our station wagon boasted the first car seat on the market, which faced the back windshield and was fondly referred to as “The Catapult.”

Compare this to my nephew’s car seat, which straps and bolts him in like Jeff Gordon or an F-16 pilot preparing to push Mach 5 instead of a two-year-old in a Toyota Camry on his way to story hour.  It is the only harness I have ever seen more complex than a WonderBra.  No wonder babies are so perpetually furious when they travel.

The happiest place on earth?I’m waiting for the ultimate movie concerning the family vacation: Give me a realistic two hours on a married couple with their kidlets at Disney World.  I don’t mean the mid-90’s, ABC sitcom-era “Boy!  Is this place GREAT!” thing.  I mean the way Disney World really truly is, with the lines and the heat and the brats and the heat and the cost and the heat and the plunking down of $900 a day with a great big smile.

Look, I live near this place. I worked at this place.  And the official insignia of Walt Disney World should not be a mouse’s ears, but a small child throwing a tantrum. 

I can’t say that I blame the child, who for a week at a time is subjected 12 hours a day to a place designed to overstimulate, pressed shoulder to stroller with every other three-year-old on the face of the Earth. And I can’t blame the parents, who simply want to squeeze their money’s worth out of the day’s excursion, and give their little one the perfect Disney vacation, just like it is in the commercials, look, here’s Cinderella, go give her a hug, stop crying, we’ve sacrificed your college education for the two-day Park Hopper Pass, and THIS IS GOING TO BE PERFECT, YOU HEAR ME?! 

Perhaps the Rockies and the Rat Trap are overexposed because not every good vacation spot makes for good media.  But we have in this world are several untapped wells of summer film glory. 

Alternatives to the Mouse HouseConsider the vastly cinematic Australia.  Australia is gorgeous, and will kill you, man.  Here’s an island that’s had thousands of years with nothing to do but develop scary forms of life with no natural predator.  It is full of nothing but Russell Crowe and other things that want to eat, sting or claw you.  No amount of car seat will protect you from Australia.

Other Vacation-Spot-To-Movie suggestions:

World’s Largest McDonalds, Vinita, Oklahoma:  It arches majestically over the interstate and… is just kind of wide and empty, actually. I recommend not visiting, as I did, with an ex-boyfriend and his mother. The Vinita location’s claim has since been usurped by a McDonald’s in Orlando, Fla., which I have also visited, and plan on noting thusly on my resume.  I hereby nominate Mariah Carey to play the McDonald’s. 

Motel That Has Since Probably Has Probably Sunk Directly Through the Sand Into Hell By Now, Daytona Beach, FL:  I was driving down A1A and passed a low-rent motel, the type of place you feel strongly you would get an STD from entering the lobby. The marquee sign read “Having an Affair?  Have It Here!”  Because that will make it the last place any spouse will check.

My Apartment:  Features forms of mold not found elsewhere in the western hemisphere and the world’s most underused purchased-from-television exercise equipment.

Mary Beth Ellis writes for Her last vacation was a day trip to St. Augustine, FL, which was not otherwise mentioned in the article because it is a real underachiever when it comes to trying to kill you.