College Road Trip
One of the most groundbreaking days in a young person’s life is when they go off to college. This is the long awaited break from the constant parental rules and regulations that they have known all their lives. It is a day of freedom; a day of anticipation. They are done with high school and now will face live on their own; starting to make their way in the world as adults. For many parents this day is a sad one. Their little baby has grown up and is leaving the family homestead. Some parents see this as a day of triumph finally getting their house back for themselves. For others it is just a sign that they are getting older and the proverbial torch is being passed to a new generation. Many films have taken on this most momentous of days but usually it is solely from the point of view of the kids. These have the tendency to degrade into juvenile boobs and beer flicks depicting hedonistic activities that would embarrass the makers of the ‘Girls Gone Wild’ DVDs. Others go in specific directions like the few I can think of looking at the initial college experience of fictitious daughters of the President. Now there is a new direction for such a film to take. It shows the reaction of both the parent and the child. It comes from an unlikely source, Disney. This film ‘College Road Trip’ attempts to combine several themes in a movie fit for viewing by both the kids and the adults in the audience. While it is admittedly not the strongest movie to come out of this time honored studio it appears to have been somewhat misunderstood by many who have commented on it. When looking at a film like this the main question is whether the cast and crew succeeded in accomplishing what they set out to do. If they wanted to make a movie that is out right silly they succeeded. On the other hand if they intended to make a true comedy then there was more they could have done.
This film was basically written by a committee of four writers. Writing teams, especially in comedy can produce fantastic results but in this case it seems they were working at odds with each other. Emi Mochizuki and Carrie Evans are newcomers to the film industry and this represents their freshman effort. Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio both not only have experience in scripting family films they have worked several times together. They were in on writing ‘Horton Hears a Who!’, ‘The Santa Clause 2’ and the lamentable ‘Bubble Boy’. To their credit they did bite off quite a chunk in taking some many popular movie themes here. This is ultimately where the movie begins to fall apart. They wanted to combine the beloved genre of the road trip with elements of parental authority, teen rebellion and the father-daughter relationship. They then throw in a couple of goofy pals for the daughter just for good measure. When they added a pig to the mix perhaps they went too far. There is an old adage in show business about working with kids and animals that the writers should have considered. The story concerns a teenager, Melanie Porter, played by Disney regular, Raven-Symoné who is about to go off to check out some potential colleges for the fall. Her father, James (Martin Lawrence) is the police chief for the town they live in. She wants to attend Georgetown University which would provide the perfect pre-law program she is interested in. James is very much a control freak with trust issues; actually a complete lack of trust. He wants his daughter to attend nearby Northwestern University. Melanie has a chance to talk to the Georgetown interview committee and wants to go off with her friends. Poppa insists on coming alone and a couple of stowaways brother Trey (Eshaya Draper) and the family pet, Albert the pig, come along for the ride. I think the mother, Michelle (Kym Whitley) is just glad to get the whole crazy family out of the house for while and finally get some piece and quiet.
Taking he helm in the big director’s chair here is Roger Kumble. He has a good mixture of films under his belt. He has ranged from the puerile ‘National Lampoon’s Senior Trip’ and both wrote and directed ‘Cruel Intension’ and its sequel ‘Cruel Intension 2’. It has to be a real change of pace for him to leave behind more mature faire for a family friendly Disney flick. At least here he has a fail safe mechanism. When things get too slow with the main characters he can always focus on the pig and whatever silliness he happens to be up to at the moment. Kumble tries to keep the film paced well but there is just too much material here that is predicable for the audience to stay engaged. The battle of the wills between the father and daughter characters seems to have been played out with the actors. Both Lawrence and Symoné are accustomed to being in center stage. Kumble does a very good job in making sure each has their own moments in the flick. Lawrence has certainly made a 180 degree turn around in his career. He started out as a stand up comedian with a perchance towards extremely blue material. He then had a stint with a network sit-com. This provided a transitional period for his current string of Disney family movies. Symoné has her own Disney half hour series and is one of their go to young actresses for parts like this. Disney fans will also note the appearance of Brenda Song from ‘The Suite Life of Zack and Cody’.
The typical high jinks occur as the road trip progresses. During an overnight stay at a sorority house James sneaks in and stays under Melanie’s bed. To his relief the bedtime conversation tended more towards lip gloss and other fashion types than boys and drinking. Meanwhile the pig gets some of the best scenes as he flushes a toilet, dances, flips and even solves a Rubik’s Cube. The little brother seems to be along only to provide something for the young viewers to identify with. This brings up the main difficultly in viewing this flick. It plays too old for fans of ‘Just Raven’ and ‘Zack and Cody’ but is too young for the members of the audience about to leave the ‘tween demographic. There is nothing inherently wrong with a silly movie. We all need to watch one every so often. It just has to be geared properly to an audience. This one is trapped in the gray area between two demographics.
Typical of a Disney family release the DVD is excellent. Both the Pan & Scan and anamorphic widescreen are available on the disc. You get to choose which one you want from the initial menu. Teach your children as young as possible to appreciate the original aspect ratio of a film and go widescreen. There are also plenty of extras included. This is a little flick that is good for a popcorn night with the kids but it could have been better.