One does not watch "College Road Trip." One encounters it. Endures it. Accepts its challenge.
This is an exercise in terribleness, recycling lousy jokes from previous horrible movies, only with Martin Lawrence and Raven-Symoné to make them even worse. Only the brave will sit through the entire thing, perhaps all the time wondering, "Is this thing real? Did someone really make this?"
Yes, someone really made this, which is fascinating - did the filmmakers really believe they were making a good movie, or was there some point where they realized the whole project was beyond salvation, threw up their hands in collective agony, and said, "well, screw it, let's just have that joke where the golf cart crashes in slo-mo."
Or, maybe, just maybe, did these people honestly believe that of all the golf-cart-crashes-in-slo-mo-while-the-stars-get-all-bug-eyed-and-scream jokes to ever grace the bottom of the celluloid barrel, this one would be the time it was actually funny?
Our first warning - the first throw of the gauntlet - came with the poster. Take a look at this thing. Take a long, hard, sober look at this, what is surely one of the worst movie posters ever created:
The terrible Photoshop, the mugging to the camera, the generic tag line, the pig, the kid with the goggles. And Donny Osmond's Creepy SmileTM sneaking up from behind like a demon in the night. The poster steps right up front and announces boldly to the world: Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.
The trailer helped explain a few things, namely that Martin Lawrence was going to get zapped in the tenders with a taser (while mugging to the camera!), Raven-Symoné was going to scream a lot, and Donny Osmond would play the Whitest Guy Ever. Warnings were made that the movie would be borrowing liberally from such cinematic milestones as "Johnson Family Vacation," "RV," and "Are We There Yet?" Oh, my.
What neither the poster nor the trailer bothered to do was warn us about the scene where Martin Lawrence and Raven-Symoné hitch a ride on a tour bus packed with picture-snapping, karaoke-loving Japanese stereotypes, and then Raven-Symoné would lip-sync her latest hit single, a cover of Frankie Smith's "Double Dutch Bus," a song that was awful enough when Smith recorded it, so you can imagine the sensory pain that comes from Raven-Symoné's Disney-pop remake.
The song - an all-out music video interlude between Raven-Symoné and the "comically Asian" extras - is perhaps the worst part of the film, although it's a tight race. The film opens with an awkward, sloppy piece of narration (it took four people to write this?) in which Lawrence, as police chief James Porter, explains that the saddest day in a parent's life is the day his child leaves home; we then learn that to counteract this heartache, James demands his daughter, Melanie (Raven-Symoné), attend Northwestern, a stone's throw from their home. It's a plan he's had all Melanie's life, never mind that she'd rather go to Georgetown. It's supposed to show him as a quirky control freak to which we can all relate, but the comical exaggerations go way too far, and he winds up being a completely unlikable jackass. Later in the movie, we learn that not even James' mother wants to put up with his controlling crap; she flinches at news of his arrival. Martin Lawrence: a jerk even a mother can hate. (Who can blame Melanie for wanting to flee to another state?)
We then get to what stands in for an actual plot, in which father and daughter embark on a "college road trip," which is a grand tour of all the colleges on the way from Chicago to Washington, D.C. All two of them. (Seriously.) It's not so much a plot as a checklist for sitcom scenes: dad wrecks the car; the pig (a genius pig owned by a genius little brother, because that's what kind of movie this wants to be) gets high on caffeine and ruins someone's fancy wedding; dad sneaks into a sorority house to spy on his daughter (despite the intended comedy, it's a creepy, icky moment); dad and daughter discover the only plane that'll get them to Georgetown in time is a skydiving plane, and of course they're forced to skydive themselves, because anything less "funny" would make sense. Somewhere along the way, the pig and brother, who stowed away in the car for no real reason, get written out of the plot in weirdly random spots. After all, if James is this bad a father to Melanie, surely he's of no use to the son, either. (Indeed, James spends much of the early movie complaining about how smart the son is, and how that's a problem. He also seems to find no joy or pride in having a daughter smart enough to get into every top school in the nation. Our hero, ladies and gentlemen.)
Along the way, everyone gets all wide-mouthed and bug-eyed as they scream at each other. This is passed off as comedy. Imagine, then, an "RV" where the geyser of liquid feces wasn't so much literal as metaphorical (Raven-Symoné's singing is, in its own magical way, a giant fountain of poo), and you understand where "College Road Trip" sits in the pantheon of loathsomeness.
Disney presents "College Road Trip" with their "FastPlay" option, which plays all the previews, the feature, and key extras in one batch. I don't know anyone who actually uses FastPlay, but there it is. When I accessed FastPlay, the disc defaulted to the pan-and-scan version of the film, making the option even doubly useless.
Video & Audio
The film is presented in both its original 2.35:1 widescreen format (with anamorphic enhancement) and a 1.33:1 pan-and-scan version. Despite cramming two versions of a film onto a one-sided disc, both transfers look very solid, with no compression issues. Colors are full and detail is sharp in every generically directed scene.
The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack is well mixed, making every obnoxious musical cue and zany slapstick sound effect and all that darn yelling shine. A French stereo dub is included, as are optional English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.
Two commentary tracks are included. Two! For this movie! The first features Raven-Symoné and director Roger Kimble; Kimble does most of the talking, offering cluelessly chipper behind-the-scenes reminisces. Two of the writers, Emi Mochizuki and Carrie Evans, tackle the second track, occasionally laughing at a few jokes and pointing out obvious story points in between long, long pauses; neither writer seems thrilled with the movie itself, as they can barely muster any enthusiasm for their chat. (Who can blame them?) The commentaries are only playable with the widescreen version.
"Raven's Video Diary" (9:57) is a big ol' cheat of a behind-the-scenes clip - we watch Raven pretend to videotape her cast and crew mates, clips which are then mixed with generic EPK-style interviews. Weak. (Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen.)
A batch of ten deleted scenes (12:37 total) and alternate versions of the opening and closing (3:36 total) are mostly bits of unbearable comedy and useless character business. Kimble provides optional commentary on these scenes. (2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen.)
"College Road Trip Gag Reel" (2:49) is your standard bloopers collection, with the cast laughing more than we are. (2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen.)
A music video for "Double Dutch Bus" (3:16), in which Raven dances in a bus decked out like a disco while Donny Osmond camps it up and movie clips fill the spare time, is as horrible as it sounds. (1.78:1 flat letterbox.)
"On the Set: Double Dutch Bus" (3:27) is a brief EPK-style look at the video's making. Featuring an interview with Donny Osmond! (1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen.)
A batch of Disney previews and ads rounds out the set.
Starring Big Momma and the girl who killed "The Cosby Show," "College Road Trip" is a miserable time all around. Those who liked the movie will enjoy the quality presentation and high volume of (fluffy) extras, but the rest of you should definitely Skip It.