Judge Clark Douglas wants to know if we're there yet. Hmm? Are we?
Our review of College Road Trip, published July 15th, 2008, is also available.
They just can't get there fast enough.
"In the future, all video will be implanted into our brains."—A character from College Road Trip
"Let's hope that we have an erase option for movies like College Road Trip."—Judge Clark Douglas
Facts of the Case
James Porter (Martin Lawrence, Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins) is an overprotective father. His daughter Melanie is graduating from high school, and she's about to head off to college. James wants her to go to Northwestern, which is only 40 miles away from their home in Chicago. However, Melanie has her sights set on going to Georgetown (which is in Washington, D.C.). After a brief bit of squabbling between father and daughter about the situation, they determine to go on a road trip and visit both colleges. Along the way, there will be plenty of wacky events, peculiar situations, and father-daughter conversations. Will James learn to stop being so overprotective and trust his daughter? My friend Andrew Jackson says yes.
I knew this movie was in trouble as soon as the pig appeared. Though there are surely exceptions, I'm of the belief that any comedy involving a pig just can't be that funny. When Martin Lawrence says, "I don't trust that pig. I don't like the way he keeps eyeballing me," it's a bad sign. Things get even more ominous when we are informed that the pig is a "super-pig," created by Lawrence's 11-year-old son, "as a secret weapon to defend our nation." Oh, dear. Yes, there will be more than a little bit of pig comedy before the film is over. You get the sense that there will eventually be a scene in which Martin Lawrence screams and yells about something the pig is doing. You are correct in sensing that. I bet you didn't guess that there would also be a scene in which the pig eats an entire bag of coffee beans and causes chaos at a wedding that is unrelated to anything else in the film. Wow, is this the new low point of Martin Lawrence's career?
The strange thing is that the movie isn't even about a pig. However, the plot is so thin and predictable that the film is forced to resort to frequent pig humor in order to fill time. Just when the pig starts to settle down a bit, the movie finds a new way of passing time…picking up Donny Osmond and his wacky daughter. Osmond behaves like an over-caffeinated character from a rejected '60s sitcom, singing selections from The Sound of Music and constantly reminding everyone of just how much he and his daughter love each other.
If you cut the pig, Donny Osmond, the party-loving grandmother, the bus full of goofy Japanese tourists, and other distractions out of this 83-minute film, you've got about 13 minutes of material devoted to the central plot line. This is a rather shallow and unsatisfying story that is mostly told via well-worn clichés and lazy montages showing the characters growing and developing in particularly unconvincing ways. The participation of Lawrence and the general popularity of Raven-Symone may have earned the film a theatrical release, but College Road Trip frankly feels like sub-par Disney Channel Original Movie material.
All of the performances in the film are shrill and one-dimensional. Lawrence can be a talented comedian when he is given the right material, but he has shown remarkably poor judgment when it comes to picking his projects in recent years. I honestly don't have a problem with Lawrence choosing to focus on family-friendly material. However, surely he could find better scripts than this one? Meanwhile, Raven-Symone mugs shamelessly for the camera and behaves as if she knows that a crowded theatre of pre-teens is watching her.
The hi-def transfer is fine, with that irrepressibly cheerful and bright Disney color scheme coming through nicely. Sound is good, though I do take issue with the soundtrack from time to time. One musical number on a bus is so loud compared to the rest of the film that I was forced to adjust the volume to preserve my ears. Additionally, Edward Shearmur's generic comedy score is the sort of prancing, playful sort of ordeal that obviously underlines every single moment that is supposed to be funny.
You wouldn't think that a film like College Road Trip would be heavy on special features, but there's a sizable chunk of supplements here. A ten-minute video diary from Raven is rather pleasant. Twelve minutes of deleted scenes offer several moments which are funnier than anything in the film. There's also an alternate opening and two alternate endings. The opening is funny; the others are bad pig scenes. A three-minute gag reel offers the usual blown lines and crack-ups. The Raven-Symone cover version "Double Dutch Bus" music video is pretty obnoxious, unless you're into that sort of thing. There's also a three-minute making-of featurette for the music video. Surprisingly, there are also two audio commentaries for the film. Sadly, these do not consist of people saying, "I'm sorry, it was a mistake" over and over and over. The first commentary features director Roger Kumble and actress Raven-Symone. Kumble does most of the talking here; it's a pleasant if uneventful track. Considerably spottier and less engaging is the commentary with writers Emi Mochizuki & Carrie Evans. They simply toss off whatever comes to mind, but it's a pretty unfocused track with several gaps. The one interesting thing about this is that both writers adamantly claim that they had nothing to do with the pig's involvement in the film. Considering how big a role the pig plays, this is quite unusual.
There isn't a single moment in all of College Road Trip that feels remotely honest or authentic in any way. It's a pre-packaged and test audience-driven piece of fluffy artifice that represents the worst aspects of all things Disney. At the very best, the film offers positive messages and is rather inoffensive. Still, I found it more or less unwatchable. With the price of gas and all, you're probably better off skipping this road trip.
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Scales of Justice
• Audio Commentary w/Raven-Symone and Roger Kumble
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