Judge Erich Asperschlager went to the School of Hard Knocks, a small private college without doorbells.
Our review of College Road Trip (Blu-Ray), published July 14th, 2008, is also available.
They just can't get there fast enough.
Disney's family movie express rolls on with the release of College Road Trip, starring Martin Lawrence and Raven-Symoné as a daddy and daughter duo taking the trip of a lifetime…or something cheesy like that.
Facts of the Case
From the day his daughter was born, police chief James Porter (Martin Lawrence, Bad Boys) has been planning to send her to nearby Northwestern University. But when he discovers that Melanie (Raven-Symoné, That's So Raven) has set her sights on distant Georgetown, the overprotective James disrupts her plans for a college visit by turning a road trip with her best friends Nancy (Brenda Song, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody) and Katie (Margo Harshman, Even Stevens) into daddy-daughter bonding time. Their cross-country journey takes several unexpected (unless you've seen any of these movies before) turns, involving stowaways, car trouble, a four-legged wedding crasher, forced skydiving, and a golf cart battle royale.
Want to know the craziest thing about College Road Trip? I didn't hate it. As a reviewer, I probably shouldn't admit to not expecting to like a movie before watching it, but I remembered seeing commercials for this one. They featured Martin Lawrence facing off against a small pig who flushed a toilet. Pig stuff aside, I've never liked Martin Lawrence—not even when it was cool to like him, in the '90s. But after watching this movie…well, I still don't much like him, but he was a lot less annoying than I thought he'd be. The G-rated story somehow de-Martin-izes him: No creepy sexual innuendo, no swearing, and, most importantly, no fat suit.
Of course, just because I didn't hate College Road Trip doesn't mean it's a great movie, or that most of the people reading this site will enjoy it. It's for kids. It's got a predictable plot that bounces between silly and contrived. Everyone overacts. The jokes aren't that funny. It follows the well-worn path of a father learning he should listen to his daughter and support her dreams. There are way too many heartwarming moments as the film draws to a close. It is, in short, just like every other mainstream family movie. But is that such a bad thing?
The best thing about College Road Trip is that it's inoffensive. Faint praise, no doubt, but it has to be tough for parents to find TV and movies they can watch with their kids without fear of bad language, violence, and gross-out humor. This movie doesn't have any of those things. Even though College Road Trip came out in theaters, it feels more like a Disney Channel original movie than a Hollywood feature. It's clean, and it has a positive family message. No divorce, no bullies, no evil corporations. It's just a loving dad and his surprisingly clean-cut and responsible daughter dealing with the fact that she's growing up.
In fact, College Road Trip has a lot in common with the 1991 remake of Father of the Bride—another film about a father played by a stand-up comic named Martin coming to grips with his daughter leaving the nest. While Father of the Bride is by far the superior film, College Road Trip still manages to tap into what parents go through when their children leave and start lives of their own. At the beginning of the movie, Lawrence's character says, "A lot of people think the moment a parent lets go of their child is at the wedding. Not me…Truth is, you say goodbye years ago, the day [they] leave home." That sentiment gives College Road Trip just enough emotional honesty to carry it through the most ridiculous sequences.
At its worst, this movie has everything there is to hate about road-trip comedies. Do they get lost? Yep. Is there a flat tire? You bet there is. A run-in with an annoying fellow traveler? Two words: Donny Osmond. The all-smiles king of cheese plays exactly the part you'd expect—a bubbly, show tunes-singing, Ned Flanders-type super dad with a sunny college-bound daughter to match. The best I can say for the pair is that their scenes are mercifully short, though I can't be positive—I may have blocked them out.
The most surprising thing about College Road Trip for me—besides not being repulsed by Martin Lawrence—is that I…sigh…actually liked the pig. Usually, small animals added to family films for comic relief are the kiss of death (a rule which applies doubly to anthropomorphic "super pigs"), but Albert—the chess-playing pet belonging to Melanie's genius kid brother Trey (Eshaya Draper)—isn't that bad. Yes, a CGI-enhanced Albert does backflips on a hotel bed after consuming a wastebasket full of coffee beans, and his big scene involves him single-hoofedly dismantling a fancy wedding reception. What can I say? He's cute.
Though Disney movies tend to be a little light on extras, College Road Trip piles on the bonus material. There are deleted scenes, a gag reel, alternate opening and ending scenes, Raven-Symoné's video diary, and a music video for Raven's single "Double Dutch Bus." For those who like audio commentaries, there are a bunch: two feature-length tracks (one with Symoné and director Roger Kumble and one with the writers), and optional director commentaries for the deleted and alternate scenes.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
As I said before, this movie is not for everyone. It's not even for most people. If College Road Trip doesn't sound like the kind of movie you'd enjoy, it probably isn't. Don't say I didn't warn you.
This release features Disney's trademarked "FastPlay" technology, which automatically plays the movie without having to navigate any pesky DVD menus. It also automatically plays an endless series of trailers which can only be skipped by using your remote more than you'd need to without FastPlay. Although the film is available in both full and widescreen versions, FastPlay defaults to full screen, no matter what your DVD player is set to output. Thanks for the "help," Disney.
If you bothered to read this review, chances are you're either genuinely interested in College Road Trip or want to see how big of a train wreck it is. Sorry to disappoint the latter group, but the movie really isn't that bad. It's not great by any stretch, but if you're on the lookout for a movie to watch with your kids—or just want to keep them busy while you take an 83-minute nap—College Road Trip is worth a rental.
I can't believe I'm saying this: Not guilty.
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