Woe the randy teenager who places Road Trip or, eventually, the forthcoming College on their Netflix list, and receives College Road Trip by accident. When senior Melanie Porter (Raven-Symoné), who has her heart set on attending Washington D.C.’s Georgetown University, plans a trip with her high
school girlfriends to look at colleges, her overprotective police chief
Hoping to convince her to attend a nearby school, he insists on
accompanying her on the trip, but his over-the-top efforts
to protect his little girl backfire, and automotive mishaps, multiple
taserings and much over-demonstrative acting-the-fool ensues.
Aiming for broad, centrist entertainment for parents and kids alike is fine, but College Road Trip
has no steady, inner throughline. It wants to sell the sincerity of
James’ love for his daughter, but alternates scenes of him tearily
watching home video footage of a young Melanie with slapsticky bits in which Lawrence screws up his face in confusion
and disdain, and rants and raves about the family pet pig giving him “the eye.” Then there’s the matter of Disney Channel staple Raven-Symoné, who overacts with such sheer, unhinged intensity that one might be forgiven for thinking she were auditioning for a high school drama club production of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
This is obviously a paycheck gig for director Roger Kumble (Just Friends), who must be wondering what happened to the trajectory of his career after the moderately warm reception that 1999’s Cruel Intentions — his adaptation of Choderlos de Laclos’ oft-reworked novel, Dangerous Liaisons — received. Obliging the desultory nature of the material — which opens with a mock-trial centering around the Big Bad Wolf for wannabe-litigator Melanie, and then proceeds to make hyper-literal almost every cliché of pained, awkward teen-parent interaction — Kumble just throws air-quote style at the screen (wow, freeze frames combined with split-screen wipes!), seemingly in the hope that all the extra color and motion will distract audiences’ brains from the lack of any laughs or connection with the movie.
The film’s supporting cast includes Kym E. Whitley as Melanie’s mom Michelle and Donny Osmond, in
full-on enthusiastic goofball mode, as Doug Greenhut, a sort of cross between Ned Flanders, Ned Ryerson and Phil Stromberg. Other Disney Channel bit players, like Brenda Song (The Suite Life of Zack and Cody) and Lucas Grabeel (High School Musical), also pop up and, somewhat surprisingly, are among the least annoying, most restrained characters in the ensemble.
College Road Trip comes housed in a regular Amray case in turn stored in a cardboard slipcover, and the irritation starts almost immediately upon boot-up. Though billed as coming in both widescreen 2.35:1 and full screen 1.33:1, the former aspect ratio is only accessible via the “audio options” tab on the main menu, which seems silly, and mis-labeled. Auto-play start-up, scene selection or the regular “play movie” will all default to the full screen presentation.
Two different audio commentaries are included — one with writers Emi Mochizuki and Carrie Evans, and the other with Raven-Symoné and Kumble, who, among other peppy bits of trivia, points out that the facade of the Northwestern memorial library the production used was named for the movie’s location manager. A three-minute gag reel briefly showcases how they got that pig to jump on the bed (a dude in a green jumpsuit, don’t you know), as well as a toothy Osmond flubbing lines and asking with a huge grin, “Has my career come to this?” (Answer: yes.) There are also deleted scenes with optional commentary from Kumble, plus an alternate opening and endings, unfortunately none of which involve a fiery auto crash that leaves no characters alive. Raven-Symoné’s video diary finds the star bopping about set and chatting with her costars. Finally, if one needs more Raven-Symoné, there’s a music video for the movie’s signature tune, “Double Dutch Bus,” and a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the music video. Though mercifully brief at 83 minutes, College Road Trip is one movie you definitely won’t want to be stuck with on a long car ride. To purchase the movie via Amazon, click here. D- (Movie) C+ (Disc)