There are three reasons to see "Carpool": David Paymer, David Paymer, and David Paymer. The character actor best known for his Oscar-nominated role as Billy Crystal's brother in "Mr. Saturday Night" is easily the best thing in this otherwise mediocre comedy. The movie gets off to a good start. Paymer plays a workaholic dad who has to make a big presentation at work. But his big day gets off to a bad start when (while in a hurry to get to work) his wife complains that she's sick and forces him to take her place in the carpool. So he, along with his own two sons, picks up three kids, and it's off to school. Right from the getgo Paymer looks like he's going through alot of stress as he has no choice but to put up with the five rambunctious kids. But then things take an unexpected turn. Paymer stops off at a place known as a gourmet market to get some food for the kids to eat on the way to school. Then a goofy carnival owner played by Tom Arnold comes in, botches a hold-up, and in the process takes Paymer hostage. When they try to leave, Arnold's truck is blocked in by another vehicle. So what else is he to do? Simple. He uses Paymer's van with the kids in it to get away which begins a long chase all day long. And the movie goes somewhat downhill from there, but it doesn't go downhill disasterously. This is one silly movie. Arnold was very good in sidekick roles in "True Lies" and "Nine Months", but he hasn't been as effective in leading roles. In "Carpool" he's O.K., but better than he was in "Big Bully", "The Stupids", and "McHale's Navy". "Cheers'" Rhea Perlman turns up halfway through the movie as a meter maid who joins in on the chase. Her character is basically a cartoon, and she deserved better. And what on earth is Rod Steiger doing in this movie? The Oscar-winning actor comes in for a bit part that is totally pointless. The five young actors who play the carpooled kids (which includes Rachael Leigh Cook from "She's All That") range from likable to totally annoying. Still, the thing I liked the most about "Carpool" is David Paymer. He's naturally funny everytime he's on screen. Also, another funny element in the film is the voice of Kathleen Freeman as Arnold's insane mother. The weirdest thing about this character is that you never see her face, and the character is voiced not only by Freeman, but two other actresses as well (Edie McClurg and Miriam Flynn). Why didn't the filmmakers just have Freeman do the entire voiceover of this character? Why does this character have to have three different voices? That doesn't make sense. Freeman's voice is easily the funniest because it comes from a terrific veteran actress. "Carpool" is an average comedy with some laughs from time to time and a hilarious performance by Paymer, but it's all too silly.
**1/2 (out of four)