Smartly marketed to hit video shelves around the same time as many families are planning to send their kids off to college in the Fall, "College Road Trip" starts off with an opening that would indicate a pleasant (maybe even a bit thoughtful) movie about a father having to come to terms with the fact that his daughter is getting to the point where she's going to leave the nest and venture into adulthood.
The movie, from director Roger Kumble ("Just Friends"), might have the unintended effect of kids choosing to just transport themselves to school. The film stars Martin Lawrence as James Porter, the police chief in a small town in Illinois who, as the movie opens, discusses the plan for his daughter to go to Northwestern - a college close enough that he can keep tabs on her.
However, it doesn't exactly work out the way he planned - rather than going to Northwestern 40 miles away, daughter Melanie (Raven-Symone) instead manages to get into Georgetown - several hundred miles away. So starts a road trip (can't imagine the cost of gas if they were making the trip as of now) filled with the two S's - slapstick and sappiness. The first stop: Northwestern, where James makes a second attempt to convince Melanie that Northwestern's the place for her.
When they set off for Georgetown, problems arise - first in the form of a faulty GPS and then in the form of both little brother Trey (Eshaya Draper) and pet pig Albert - who've both hitched a ride, unknown to either James or Melanie. There's no cliche left unturned on their trip, including the introduction of a preppy and peppy parent (Donny Osmond, who's sort of like a live-action Flanders from "The Simpsons") and his daughter.
This certainly isn't the worst thing Lawrence has been involved with recently - those honors go to "Big Momma's House 2" and "Rebound" - but it's still another lackluster effort from the star. The only element of the movie that's truly amazing is the fact that it took four screenwriters to come up with this material, which is - at best - sitcom level stuff. There's little to the plot, which is a series of predictable gags and unearned emotional moments. The picture seems to even have trouble filling 83 minutes, as there's a fair amount of filler, including a song number from Raven.
Given that many parents and children go through the process of heading off to college each year (and while I'm sure a movie has probably been made about a parent taking a child to college, I'm not remembering it at the moment), it's too bad that the filmmakers didn't try to provide a more thoughtful, less slapsticky look at the start of the college experience.
VIDEO: "College Road Trip" is presented by Disney in 2.35:1 (1080p/AVC). The Blu-Ray presentation was a considerable improvement over the DVD presentation (which may have suffered somewhat from having both a pan & scan presentation and widescreen presentation stuffed onto a dual-layer disc.) The Blu-Ray presentation offers much better sharpness and detail, as the picture showed very good fine detail (grass, hair, etc) and depth to the image was certainly stronger than on the DVD's presentation.
However, there were still some minor concerns, including a few traces of edge enhancement and some minor noise during a few scenes. Still, the print looked mostly pristine and no other concerns were noted. Colors also seemed to have more pep on the Blu-Ray presentation, as the film's bright color palette seemed brighter and more well-saturated. Flesh tones also had a more rich, natural appearance.
SOUND: The film's PCM 5.1 soundtrack is wholly and completely a "comedy mix", with hardly any use of the surrounds. The presentation remained dialogue-driven throughout and audio quality was fine, with crisp dialogue and effects.
EXTRAS: The film gets plenty of bonus features, starting off with two commentaries - one featuring director Roger Kumble and star Raven-Symoné, while the other features writers Emi Mochizuki and Carrie Evans. We also get deleted scenes, an alternate opening/ending, gag reel, "Double Dutch Bus" music video by Raven-Symoné, "Raven's Video Diary" and behind-the-scenes featurette on the making of the music video.
Final Thoughts: "College Road Trip" had the opportunity to be a moving, funny look at parents and kids taking that one last trip before the kids go off to college. Unfortunately, the movie turns out to be a thin, slapstick-driven comedy with few laughs. It's not the worst project Lawrence has been associated with, but nonetheless, it's not very good, either. The Blu-Ray offers considerably better image quality than the DVD, as well as fine audio quality and a good deal of supplements.
The Film C+