Jesus? In a Barry Sonnenfeld film? That’s sort of like subtext in a Rob Schneider movie, so it’s probably unlikely. But then there’s Chenoweth, all blond curls and goofy smiles, who showed up at the Regency Hotel in New York decked out like a valentine in sparkly hearts. Did she come up with that?
”Yeah,” the devoutly Christian actress giggled. “It’s my own sick mind.”
Sick mind? Not exactly. But when Chenoweth and a few of her brightest co-stars--Robin Williams and Jeff Daniels probably need no introduction--arrived extremely early on a recent Saturday morning to talk with the press about their new movie “RV,” family values emerged as a major issue on their minds.
“RV” tells the story of Bob Munro (Williams), an overworked businessman who changes his family’s Hawaii vacation plans when he’s needed at a Colorado meeting. The substitute is a road trip via trailer, and before his kids can load music onto iPods, there’s an RV the size of a city bus parked in front of their costly L.A. home.
Bonding time, which Bob promises his wife (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”’s Cheryl Hines), is something the Munros are sorely in need of, but not even Bob knows it. Thousands of fraught miles later--fights and feces dumping ensue--the family is taken under the overbearing wings of Travis (Jeff Daniels) and Mary Jo (Chenoweth) Gornicke.
“When I was growing up, we took family vacations,” Chenoweth said. “Maybe I’m living in a plastic bubble, but it doesn’t seem like families do that as much anymore. And that’s why I love the Munros--their trip to Maui was cancelled and they’re going in an RV. I think the Gornickes are there to remind them that being together is a good thing.”
While the Munros spend evenings tapping away at their laptops (and announce dinner over Instant Message), the Gornekes spend every waking minute with one another--singing, eating, driving. And they like it.
According to Chenoweth, this wasn’t always the case.
“What I decided, and Jeff was on board with this, is that we [the Gornickes] were the Munros at one point,” Chenoweth said. “In our sweet southern way we’d gotten a little bit out of the loop and we wanted to get back to family. So I strongly recommend if anybody has a dysfunctional family, definitely get trapped in a little car, or bus, and go driving across country. It’s great therapy.”
But while Chenoweth blissfully recalled her family's road trips, Williams, who has three kids of his own and a predilection for films with family values--“Miss Doubtfire” and “Hook,” just to name a couple--gritted his teeth.
“I tried to camp with my son when he was five,” Williams said, before implying that fiction, in the case of “RV,” isn’t always that far from reality.
“People say ‘Where do you get that faux-homeboy thing?’” Williams said. “Cody [his son] went through a big rap phase. He’d be playing hard core thug music and we’d be going to school and even my colon’s going ‘Damn, the bass is loud.’ He’s a tall skinny kid, so he’s still going ‘Check my guns out, dad, check my guns.”
Daniels, who drove his RV (“they’re not just for senior citizens”) from his Michigan home to the film’s Vancouver set, has made road trips a family tradition.
“We just ended 14 years of travel hockey,” Daniels said. “You’re driving with them, you’re talking with them. Why should we fly to St. Louis? Why don’t we just rent an RV and make it about the journey? And as I tell idiotic, stupid youth sports parents, it’s about the drive there and the drive back, not the trophy.”
“It’s become an adventure,” Daniels added. “When I tell them we’ll be sleeping in truck stops--‘Dad, we can’t, Dad, we’ll die!’ (But) they love, it, they really do. We’ve always had a good relationship with our kids.”
How hard is it to maintain family values in a place like Hollywood? Daniels, simply, didn’t raise his children there.
“Have you been to Hollywood?” Daniels asked. “I don’t buy into it. What’s important for me is between action and cut.”
While Daniels keeps his head below the clouds living in Michigan, Chenoweth turns to her faith.
“It’s what sustained me,” Chenoweth said. “But the minute you say ‘I have faith,’ everyone gets scared. I’m not like Tom Cruise Scientology faith, but I do pray, and it was part of my childhood, and I’m really glad I have it. But do I meet people at Starbucks and say they’re going to hell? No.”
The rest of the cast was thrilled to return to family comedy, a genre that, in recent years, has dwindled.
“They just weren’t being offered,” said Williams. “I’ve done a lot of them, and if it wasn’t something interesting, I didn’t want to do it. I got the script for ‘Cheaper by the Dozen.’ I was like, ‘I’m OK, thanks. I’ve have three (kids), I don’t need nine more.”
“I love this movie because I love that my niece and nephew are going to be able to go with their mom and dad,” Chenoweth added. “They’re all going to be able to enjoy it.”