Friday, March 07, 2008

College Road Trip

COLLEGE ROAD TRIP (Roger Kumble, 2008)

Woe to the uninformed moviegoer who wanders into COLLEGE ROAD TRIP expecting a sequel to the raunchy 2000 comedy ROAD TRIP. Instead of seeing frat parties, bare breasts, and Tom Green, such a mistaken person will get a G-rated Disney family film with Donny Osmond in the scene-stealing supporting role.

Police chief James Porter (Martin Lawrence) is the typical overprotective dad who doesn't realize that he's smothering his daughter Melanie (Raven-Symoné). Dad already has her college plan mapped out. She will attend Northwestern, which is only forty miles (and twenty-eight minutes) away, so he can be nearby in case the slightest thing goes wrong.

Of course, Melanie has a different idea. She wants to go to Georgetown and participate in a program that will send her to Japan for a term. Her dad's predicted objection notwithstanding, Melanie's dream seems unlikely until a judge impressed with her skills at mock trial puts in a good word with an old friend in the admissions office. He gets Melanie an interview that will take place in three days.

Rather than have his little girl travel to Washington, D.C. with two high school friends, which is to include an overnight stay in a University of Pittsburgh sorority house, James insists on driving Melanie so they can spend some father-daughter quality time together. If they happen to visit a fine school in Evanston along the way, well, whoever could have expected it?

COLLEGE ROAD TRIP finds Lawrence trying on the bumbling dad role in what has been Tim Allen's family movie domain. He draws a couple chuckles from how he plays James' paranoia regarding how his son's pet pig looks at him and his jealousy over the parent-child bond between super-chipper Doug (Osmond) and his daughter. Comedy-wise, though, there's little for Lawrence to do other than being in a perpetual state of exaggerated exasperation.

Although COLLEGE ROAD TRIP deals with entering young adulthood and starting to break away from parents while still needing them, the movie is aimed squarely at tweens and younger with half-formed ideas of campus life. As depicted here, college seems like a fantasy cobbled together from old movies. One half expects to see youngsters wearing raccoon coats as they cheer on their dear alma mater.

While the film allows kids to have safely scrubbed visions of the collegiate experience, it's primary purpose appears to be assuaging the fears of their moms and dads. COLLEGE ROAD TRIP plays like an instructional video shown at orientation to ease sheltering parents afraid to let their children leave the nest.

The film has a lot of high-pitched teenage girl shrieking in it, enough that a passerby could be forgiven for thinking COLLEGE ROAD TRIP is a horror movie. Otherwise this is harmless stuff that isn't particularly funny or original but manages to be relatively painless watch.

Grade: C-

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