Theatrical release poster
Directed byArthur Hiller
Written byDon Rhymer
Produced by
CinematographyDavid M. Walsh
Edited by
Music byJohn Debney
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • August 23, 1996 (1996-08-23)
Running time
89 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$17 million[2]
Box office$3.3 million[3]

Carpool is a 1996 American comedy film directed by Arthur Hiller, written by Don Rhymer, with starring Tom Arnold and David Paymer. Theatrically released with Superior Duck as the preceding cartoon.

As of March 20, 2019, the film rights to Carpool are owned by the Walt Disney Studios through 20th Century Fox, which had obtained the film rights from Warner Bros. in the mid-2010s.


Workaholic Daniel Miller (David Paymer) is forced to drive their family carpool when Mrs. Miller (Stellina Rusich) becomes ill. Daniel is in the middle of a huge advertising campaign for Hammerman's, a large chain of delis, and initially refuses the carpool until Mrs. Miller guilts him. It includes two sons, Andrew (Mikey Kovar) and Bucky (Micah Gardener), two local ladies; Chelsea (Colleen Rennison) and her older sister, Kayla (Rachael Leigh Cook), and local weirdo Travis (Jordan Warkol). Meanwhile, Franklin Laszlo (Tom Arnold) is the owner of a failing carnival. Franklin has the bright idea to rob a bank in order to get the money to keep his business going. As Franklin leaves to attempt his bank robbery, he enters a local Hammerman's where Daniel is also at. Two gunmen: Neil (Ian Tracey) and Jerry (John Tench), who also co-incidentally plan to rob the deli, hold it up and eventually a standoff ensues between them, an older woman, Franklin, and a local detective, Lt. Erdman (Kim Coates). Through a series of misunderstandings, Franklin takes Daniel as the hostage and has Hammerman's money that the gunmen had stolen from the deli. Heading to the van, Franklin kidnaps Daniel and the children. The group bonds through a series of misadventures; stopping at a hair salon to use the restroom, evading the police using a disguise, and eventually being chased by an obsessed meter maid, Martha (Rhea Perlman). Franklin reveals to the group the reason behind his robbery and kidnapping: keeping the carnival open so he can see his son.

Eventually, Franklin takes the group to his carnival, where the children enjoy the rides. The gunmen, Neil & Jerry have tracked Franklin through his wallet, which he had dropped in the deli, and want Hammerman's money. A fight ensues, with the controls to the Ferris Wheel being damaged. Daniel uses his advertising materials to jam the mechanism of the ride and climbs up to rescue Andrew. Franklin ties up the gunmen Neil & Jerry, locks them into the Zipper and gets his wallet back. Daniel realizes it's too late to attend his pitch meeting, but Franklin convinces him otherwise. Daniel arrives late and unprepared but successfully pitches to Mr. Hammerman (Rod Steiger) that children don't like his chain and that a revamp to something more kid-friendly would help. Franklin likes the idea and Daniel gains the backbone to tell him he quit. Eventually the police arrive but Daniel does not wish to press charges and Franklin is let off the hook.

Sometime later, Franklin and Daniel are co-owners of the carnival, with Mr. Hammerman supplying them with food. Everything seems to be okay, until Franklin realizes he missed a lunch date with his mother, who is shown destroying a local Sizzler over the closing credits.



The film was directed by Arthur Hiller. Hiller was also the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences at that time. The script was written by Don Rhymer.[4]


Box office

The film opened theatrically on August 23, 1996 in 1,487 venues nationwide and earned $1,628,482 in its first weekend, ranking thirteenth in the domestic box office.[5] At the end of its run, it had grossed $3,325,651.[3] Based on an estimated $17 million budget,[2][better source needed] it was a box office bomb.

Critical response

The film was not screened in advance for critics and received minimal promotion.[4] On Rotten Tomatoes, it has a score of 13% based on 23 reviews, with an average rating of 2.6/10.[6] On Metacritic the film has a score of 15 out of 100 based on reviews from 10 critics, indicating "overwhelming dislike".[7] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade of B− on scale of A to F.[8]

Ty Burr for Entertainment Weekly calls the film "Hard to hate, but just about impossible to like" and gives it grade D+.[9] Variety called it: "Low-tech, high-volume slapstick, "Carpool" is a ramshackle if amiable chase comedy that should have some appeal for end-of-summer family outings."[10] Janet Maslin, of The New York Times, pointed out that the supporting characters, especially Rhea Perlman, end up standing out with more pleasant moments when compared to the performance of Tom Arnold.[11] Rita Kempley of The Washington Post, emphasizes that in contrast to the character of Daniel who discovers that life should be fun, the film is not the same for the viewer.[12]


Arnold tied with Pauly Shore for a 1996 Razzie Award in part for his role in the film as well as for Big Bully and The Stupids.[citation needed] He also won Worst Actor for the same movies at the 1996 Stinkers Bad Movie Awards; said movies were also dishonourable mentions for Worst Picture.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "CARPOOL (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. September 24, 1996. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Carpool (1996) - Box office / business". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  3. ^ a b "Carpool (1996)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  4. ^ a b Jack Mathews (August 26, 1996). "'Carpool' Takes a Spin Along a Bumpy Road". Los Angeles Times. without advance critics screenings, without more than a whisper of promotion
  5. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for August 23-25, 1996". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. August 26, 1996. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  6. ^ "Carpool (1996)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved September 30, 2019.
  7. ^ "Carpool reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  8. ^ "Cinemascore". Archived from the original on December 20, 2018.
  9. ^ Burr, Ty (September 6, 1996). "Carpool". Entertainment Weekly. Meredith Corporation. Retrieved March 30, 2020.
  10. ^ "Carpool". Variety. August 26, 1996.
  11. ^ Maslin, Janet (August 24, 1996). "A Hijacking Teaches The Joys of Parenthood". Film Review. The New York Times. p. 20. ISSN 0362-4331. OCLC 1645522.
  12. ^ Kempley, Rita (August 24, 1996). "'Carpool'". Critic's Corner. The Washington Post. Nash Holdings. ISSN 0190-8286. OCLC 2269358.