I guess one thing can be said in defense of College Road Trip: At the very least, its title practices truth in advertising. I mean there are colleges and a road trip in the movie. Of course, one should also take into account that the words “funny,” “original” and/or “entertaining” are nowhere to be found in the title (then again, the silver lining is that neither are the words “big momma,” “bad boys” nor “runteldat”). The movie is exactly what you would expect from a G-rated Disney family comedy. It’s filled to the brim with recycled sitcom humor, and displays a complete lack of subtlety in exchange for the kind of ham-fisted mugging that would make Jerry Lewis blush.
The plot is simple. Martin Lawrence plays Police Chief James Porter, whose daughter, Melanie (Raven-Symoné, TV’s That’s So Raven), is about to graduate high school. Instead of allowing Melanie to choose her own school, dear old dad is possessive to the point of neurosis, and plans on her attending Northwestern since its only 28 minutes away. James’ over-protectiveness is handled as just some sort of cute personality quirk, when in reality the man seems to be suffering from some sort of deep mental disturbance. Not only does he break into a house to spy on his daughter, forbid her from drinking coffee because caffeine is a “drug,” and manipulate and guilt-trip the girl throughout the entire movie, this is a man who keeps a bookcase full of videotapes of his daughter. All this is creepy enough, but he also has a son (newcomer Eshaya Draper) who he barely pays attention to. I guess even pops realizes the kid—along with his chess-playing pet pig we’re told has been bred by the youngster as part of a race of super swine created to protect the nation (don’t ask)—is just around for comic relief.
However, when Melanie gets an interview at Georgetown—a school 700 miles away—James decides to drive her there with the idea that he can manipulate the girl into staying closer to home and that they might also come to a deeper understanding of one another. Of course, this being a road-trip picture, things immediately go awry (their SUV is flipped down a hill whilst trying to change a flat) and they’re forced to get to Georgetown by any means necessary. This means hitching rides with a bus full of Asian tourists, a plane full of skydivers and, unfortunately, Donny Osmond.
There are never any actual jokes or punch lines, but instead a series of gags of the high-jinks variety that eventually bring the movie to its message that James isn’t an over-protective, over-bearing, borderline psychotic father, but rather simply a doting dad. All of this is covered in enough saccharine gooey schmaltz to put anyone into a diabetic coma. Ultimately, what the film really seems to be saying is that spying on your children, smothering them at every opportunity and never actually communicating with them will make them completely well-adjusted young people—as long as you set them free at the age of 18. Hopefully, anyone contemplating the already specious idea of watching this movie in order to get parenting advice from Martin Lawrence can just read this review and save themselves the $8.50. Rated G.