March 06, 2008

College Road Trip

I see white people...

Grade: D –
Director: Roger Kumble
Starring: Martin Lawrence, Raven-Symoné, Kym Whitley, Eshaya Draper, and Donny Osmond
MPAA Rating: G
Running Time: 1 hour, 23 minutes

All you need – and, indeed, dare – to know about the insipid, teeny comedy College Road Trip is that for the bulk of its running time, the audience is held captive inside various motor vehicles with Martin Lawrence, Raven-Symoné, and, at various intervals, Donny Osmond. Raven-Symoné’s precocious kid act grew old long ago during the twilight of The Cosby Show. One can tolerate her inexplicable, hyphenated celebrity from afar as long as she remains confined to the nether-regions of the Disney Channel, or perhaps a cruise ship nightclub. But, plastering her on the big screen and letting she and Lawrence try to out-mug each other is not entertainment; it is the mark of a film that is stupid and simple-minded. And, frankly, it does not even attempt to cast itself as anything but just plain dumb.

Over-protective dad James Porter (Lawrence), police chief in a Chicago ‘burb, wants his whip-smart daughter, Melanie (Raven-Symoné), to enroll in nearby Northwestern University after graduating from high school. However, Melanie has her sights set on Georgetown, which is well beyond James’ control-freak radius. A series of unintelligible events leads James and Melanie to leave behind their Norbit-resembling wife/mom, Michelle (Kym Whitley), and take a three-day road trip to her Georgetown admission interview in D.C., stopping to shop other colleges along the way.

Naturally, mishaps and hijinks ensue, most of them stemming from James’ psychotic behavior and the family pet pig that can play chess, flush a toilet, and solve a Rubik’s cube. Let's just say that at some point an arrest and sky-diving are involved - let your imagination run from there. Beyond the thundering bad set pieces, the underlying premise of a father, who supposedly began instilling a sense of overachievement in his daughter beginning at age six, now actively discouraging her from attending a superlative university makes little sense. It is impossible to know which of the four credited screenwriters to blame, but the phrase “guilt by association” springs to mind.

A bit part from Joseph Gannascoli slyly recalls The Sopranos’ episode in which Tony drives daughter Meadow on a tour of New England colleges. On the other hand, Osmond’s turn as a showtune-crooning, cardigan-clad über-dad – think Ned Flanders on amphetamines – might have held more kitsch value before he hitched his wagon to sister Marie’s Dancing With the Stars media blitz and started popping up ad nauseam on sundry entertainment news programs.

Who knew that Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins would be the second-worst Martin Lawrence film of this year, much less the past month?

Neil Morris

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