Studio: Walt Disney
US Rating: Rated G for General Audiences
Film Length: 83 Mins
Aspect Ratio: 2:35.1 (1.33:1 also an option on the disc)
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, French 2.0
Subtitles: Optional French and Spanish
The Film - out of
Representing the true face of America has never been Walt Disney’s strong suit. While in recent years it has found ways of providing stronger role models for girls, its record of representing people of color has been deeply lacking. With College Road Trip, there is some good news and some bad news. The good news is, Disney is has added to their ‘applaud worthy’ efforts to rectify its diversity woes (continuing some good efforts on the Disney and ABC family channels). The bad news, however, is that this effort is a almost complete misfire.
Martin Lawrence plays Police Chief James Porter, an over-protective father to his energetic and bright young daughter readying herself for college. His daughter, Melanie, is played by That’s So Raven star (and former Cosby Show youngling) Raven-Symoné. James has carefully planned his daughter’s college endeavor so that she would attend a learning institute close to home. She, however, has dreams of attending Georgetown University several states away, an idea that causes her father much stress and when she gets an opportunity to interview for a special pre-law program at Georgetown, and plans a weekend road trip with some of her friend, her dad takes over, ruining her plans - all in an attempt to steer her closer to home.
Along for the ride is Melanie’s little brother Trey and his intelligent pet pig, Albert. And so the Porter’s set off on a trip filled with family oriented misadventure, mishaps and mayhem.
There are many issues with College Road Trip; problems that stem from the script, performances and concept alike. Chief among the complaints is the bare-bones script. Beyond the skeleton of words required to acknowledge an emotional change or plot progression, most of what comes out of the characters mouths is an almost incomprehensible mess of excited screams, giddy ‘oh my Gods!’ and high pitched squeals. Only when the film calms all the way down and tries for some familial wisdom does the obnoxiousness subside. The main culprit is the lead star (and co-executive producer) Ramon Symoné. Her performance brims with a distracting and unfocused energy. That, coupled with a off-putting excess of make-up, creates a significant issue for this road trip.
Martin Lawrence is able to slip comfortably into mild family fare, squeezing what little comedy can be found from the perfunctory mad-cap situations the plot lazily meanders through. These situations, like the rampaging pig at a wedding and the over-protective police chief waking up in a sorority house, have the odor of no imagination and certainly have no way of being comfortably integrated into the plot. Put simply, the ‘zip’ and ‘zany’ attempts in the film don’t work. The addition of Donny Osmond as a gleefully simple, all American dad (Doug Greenhut) with a penchant for breaking into show tunes with his daughter (who is also on a quest to find the right college) only serves to weigh the film down with annoying interludes.
Perhaps the greatest flaw in the whole experience is who exactly this film was intended for. On one hand you have the story of a high school senior preparing for the next step of her life, finding the college that will allow her to be ready for her desired career and the rest of her life. Such a storyline would be of strong appeal to the 13+ year old crowd. But on the other hand, the film presents the storyline with the all the considerations being thrust upon kids of 5-8 years old. This miscalculation is like a glove on a foot; a schizophrenic misunderstanding of the target audience that hamstrings what little the film has going for it.
The film also stars Kim Whitley as Melanie’s mom, Michelle Porter.
Walt Disney’s College Road Trip is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and enhanced for widescreen TVs. The image quality is rather good, with a clean look that is bright, colorful and even throughout. At times the image is a little too clean and overly sharp, something that is likely the result of a little edge enhancement and DNR, but honestly, it doesn’t really distract – most likely because family comedies are typically rich in colors and sunlight and pretty crisp.
College Road Trip comes with a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound (as well as a French language track). The audio boasts some healthy surround activity, a typical dose of rumbling in the subwoofer and a great showcasing of Edward Shearmur’s hybrid score of playful and warm/fuzzy. Dialogue is clean in the center channel (as are pig snorts) and in the end, Disney has done a good job on this one.
Gag Reel - (2:48) – It isn’t a very good sign when even the gag reel fails to produce an honest laugh.
Alternate Opening - (2:28) – Available with optional commentary by director Roger Kumble.
Alternate Endings - (1:03) – Available with optional commentary by director Roger Kumble, there are a couple endings shown here, trying to end on a pig related laugh. Neither really work and were correctly left on the cutting room floor.
Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Director Roger Kumble - (12:37) – 10 deleted scenes, accessible by themselves or with a ‘play all feature’, again with optional commentary by director Roger Kumble. Oddly enough, some of these scenes play ok and would have added a little more convincing flesh to Lawrence’s police chief character.
”Double Dutch Bus” Music Video Performed By Raven-Symoné - (3:16) – A music video produced to accompany the song number performed by Raven-Symoné.
On The Set: Double Dutch Bus - (3:26) – Footage from the making of the “Double Dutch Buss” music video, with Raven and Donny discussing the production.
Raven’s Video Diary - (9:56) – This features footage captured by Raven-Symoné during the production along with other more typical behind the scenes shots.
Audio Commentary with Director Roger Kumble and Raven-Symoné
Audio Commentary with writers Emi Mochizuki & Carrie Evans
I was hard pressed to find much about College Road Trip that would be worth recommending. All I can reasonably come up with is a few moments where Martin Lawrence, who I naturally find to be funny (most of the time), manages to entertain in ways that exceed the capabilities of the script. As for this being a road trip family comedy, well, the family is here, but the comedy most definitely stayed home.