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Carpool

Directed by Arthur Hiller. Starring Tom Arnold, David Paymer, Rhea Perlman, Kim Coates, Rod Steiger. (1996, PG, 89 min.)

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Aug. 30, 1996

How a Ramones ditty ever came to be the bright spot in this otherwise dull and annoying little comedy is anyone's guess. By the time “I Wanna Be Sedated” comes blasting out of the Carpool minivan's speakers, this viewer paused to rejoice because it's the first indication that anyone involved in the making of this movie had the slightest notion of how this dud was playing. But by the third reprise of “I Wanna Be Sedated,” you have to wonder exactly which treacherous production wag was responsible for inserting, and then twice re-inserting, such aggressively caustic commentary. It's viewer's choice, however, whether to self-sedate or administer the chill-out drugs to star Tom Arnold, whose brash and manic sense of good fun is in need of an effective tonic. In Carpool, Arnold plays a hapless robber who makes his getaway in a minivan populated by five kids on their way to school and the harried parent (Paymer) who's reluctantly driving the vehicle. By the time the movie concludes, the parent learns that he needs to devote more time to his kids and less to his job, the robber confesses his crime and thus manages to turn things around and raise the money he needs to keep his motley carnival afloat, Rhea Perlman makes a super-charged appearance as a meter maid on a mission, and Rod Steiger appears as a kindly Mr. Moneybags. Nothing about the movie makes much sense: For instance, why does Franklin (Arnold) paint the getaway van with purple hair dye (how surreptitious), or where the mom who claims to be too sick to drive the carpool get the energy to argue endlessly with her infantile husband (Paymer) who refuses to step up to bat. Actually Mom may have the right idea about Carpool. Frequently, the movie cuts back to Mom passed out in bed from the effects of cold medicine. If I were to name her tune, it might not be “I Wanna Be Sedated” but it sure might be “NyQuil Blues.”

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