Low-tech, high-volume slapstick, “Carpool” is a ramshackle if amiable chase comedy that should have some appeal for end-of-summer family outings. If there were a G-rated drive-in circuit left, this would fit the bill. There isn’t, so look for a quick detour to the Blockbuster racks.
Pic pairs David Paymer as uptight workaholic Daniel Miller and Tom Arnold as Franklin Laszlo, a benevolent carny master in desperate payroll straits. Their lives intersect during a bungled robbery, with Franklin taking Daniel and a minivan full of schoolkids hostage, with cops, more robbers and a manic meter maid (Rhea Perlman) in hot pursuit.
Heart of the film is a silly, very extended chase scene through Seattle (i.e. , Vancouver) streets and malls, during which Franklin and the kids engage in merry pranksterism and some serious bonding. By the end, set in a giant hangar where some carnival rides are conveniently stored, Daniel (he’s in advertising, natch) has learned the lessons about loosening up, spending more time with his family and walking out on the System that are requisite in such films.
Laying it on extra thick is Rod Steiger as the humorless owner of a gourmet emporium where the employees know how to pronounce mille-feuille and doughnut is a dirty word. Of course, that’s all changed by the end of the film, too. Arnold and Paymer ain’t Lemmon and Matthau, but they’ll do. Arthur Hiller’s pacing is crude, but that seems to be the point. Throughout it all, the kids sing along with the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated.” Mission accomplished.
Preceding “Carpool” is WB’s new five-minute Chuck Jones Daffy Duck cartoon, “Superior Duck,” which doesn’t loom to rank with Jones’, or Daffy’s, best.