College Road Trip

2008, Movie, G, 83 mins


Yes, you read the rating right: G. That's because it isn't "college road trip" as in college students having wild adventures on the road. It's "college road trip" as in an overprotective dad and his daughter taking a trip to check out the college of her choice.

Chicago police chief James Porter (Martin Lawrence) adores his bright, ambitious 17-year-old daughter, Melanie (Raven-Symone, of the Disney Channel's That's so Raven), an aspiring lawyer. James wants her to attend Northwestern University, mostly because it's close to home and James isn't ready to let his little girl loose in the big bad world. But Melanie has her heart set on Georgetown University. Sadly, the school of her dreams wait-listed her, so when an alumnus puts in a good word and gets her an interview, Melanie is beyond thrilled (cue glass-shattering squeals of joy). Melanie could ride with best galpals Katie and Nancy (Margo Harshman and Disney Channel regular Brenda Song), who are checking out the nearby University of Pittsburgh (clue glass-shattering squeals of joy, times three) and staying at Katie's sister's sorority house. But James won't hear of it: If he has to let Melanie have her shot -- and his brooks-no-argument wife, Michelle (Kym E. Whitley), says he does -- then he'll drive her to Washington, D.C., in a borrowed police van. Does absolutely, positively everything go wrong? Hell, yeah: They get lost and find Melanie's 10-year-old brainiac brother, Trey (Eshaya Draper), stowed away in the back. They total the van, disrupt a mafia wedding, hitch a ride with show-tune-obsessed Doug Greenhut and his college-age daughter (Donny Osmond, theater actress Molly Ephraim), and they find seats on a Japanese tour bus (those karaoke-loving Asians sure are funny), where Melanie belts out a cleanly funky version of Frankie Smith's "Double Dutch Bus." Havoc is wrought, lessons are learned and everyone gets a hug.

Lawrence runs through his usual repertory of mugging, seething and generally acting like a fool, only to be regularly upstaged by Arnold, Trey's pet piglet and the first product of his plan to create a race of super-pigs for military defense purposes. Not one moment in this cheap, pandering, written-by-committee comedy rings true, from the notion that Melanie's sassy mock-trial defense of Mr. Wolf (vs. a certain little pig) would impress anyone other than an entertainment executive to the idea that a lunatic like James could so much as pass a standard police-department psych exam, let alone be promoted to chief. The movie's patent lack of interest in anything but coarse slapstick only serves to make the moments when it tries to get sincere about the unique bond between fathers and their daughters even more excruciating than they would otherwise be. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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