"College" trips up

March 10, 2008, midnight | By Sophie Schwadron | 12 years, 7 months ago

Double dutch, toil and trouble - what did you expect?

It's hard to say which are lower, general expectations for Disney's "College Road Trip," or the box office numbers it deserves. Melanie Porter (Raven Symone) is an over-achieving high school senior with her eyes set on Georgetown University. Her overprotective police chief father (Martin Lawrence) has groomed her since birth to attend nearby Northwestern. To sway his daughter's choice he takes her on - you guessed it - a college road trip, with taser and Northwestern garb in hand. For the viewers that don't yield to the plot and previews as "road"-side warnings, there are a few surprises in store, but for the most part, this movie will make college-bound Blazers dread their spring break tours.

Considering "Road Trip" should never have existed to begin with, (did the producers forget to come back and give it a real title?) Raven and Lawrence make a valiant effort to keep it afloat. They're both innately likeable and funny people - there's a reason Raven won millions of hearts on "The Cosby Show" as a four-year-old with an actual sense of humor. But since "Cosby," she's spent her career bouncing through various Disney doobies.

That's not to say she doesn't have talent, because isolated from her clueless cohorts on the Disney sitcom "That's So Raven," she has excellent timing, fresh delivery and a plethora of subtle facial expressions that make for a rare Disney comedian. Plus, her image is refreshing - she's not just another skinny blonde Barbie with a ditzy act to cover up a lack of talent. But her misguided youth has slated her for the same fate as Mr. Lawrence himself - another gifted comic now choosing cash over credibility (see his last five movies). And for her first big-screen live role since 1998's "Dr. Dolittle," her movie performance falls disappointingly flat.

The road to Georgetown is painfully dull as it becomes clear that Raven cannot strike a balance between the funny facial expressions, which are entertaining for about two seconds, and the manufactured Disney drama act. She gets a hundred percent for energy, but always seems to be trying too hard. Great energy only generates eye-rolls out of typical squealing-teenage-girl lines like a phone call that consists of "I know! I know! I know! I know! I know! Where was I - Oh yeah, I know!"

It's a breath of fresh air when little brother Trey (Eshaya Draper) pops up out of the trunk somewhere between Chicago and D.C. As it turns out, Raven and Lawrence are "Road" hogs. Young Draper, in his debut role as Melanie's science-obsessed brother Trey, has about ten lines total, but each is hilariously memorable - like when he sneaks up on his parents' dinner guest during a movie to wrap the man's head in a tape measure, explaining in a creepy but point-blank whisper that "in the future, all video will be imprinted in our minds."

Raven does shine in the film's highlight scene, in which she performs the 80's funk song "Double Dutch Bus," rivaling the bus scene from "Rat Race" in random hilarity. Whether you're laughing at Raven, with Raven or just bobbing along to her soulful voice, the clip is a prime example of how a poor quality film can produce surprise smiles.

The movie, basically a step up from 2005's "Are We There Yet?," generally fluctuates between unsophisticated bursts of humor and the same sappy father-daughter scene that repeats itself about four times within the 83 minutes of screen time. For a cheap G-rated family flick, however, a few more Draper moments and a few less taser moments might have made the mushy nonsense worth the comedy.

"College Road Trip" is rated G and has no objectionable content. Now playing everywhere.

Sophie Schwadron. Sophie Schwadron has been told her last name means "someone who talks too much" in German, which is funny, because she has also been told she's a chatterbox, which is also funny, because chatterbox is a funny word. A fan of anything made by Wham-O … More »

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