Melanie is a top-notch senior and aspiring lawyer, who successfully defends the Big Bad Wolf against Three Little Piggy plaintiffs in a mock trial at school. She can't wait for the good-time rite of passage she has truly earned: a girls-only road trip to check out prospective colleges. Nothing could spoil it -- except daddy dearest.
That would be Martin Lawrence, a suburban Chicago police chief and doting father who insists on escorting Raven-Symone and crashing the "College Road Trip" of her dreams.
In this G-rated family comedy from Disney, the Chief's most compelling criterion for his precious baby's college is minimal distance from home. Northwestern, just 40 miles away, would be perfect in his opinion.
3 stars = Good
- Starring: Martin Lawrence, Raven-Symone, Donny Osmond
- Rating: G
- Web site: 'College Road Trip'
Georgetown would be perfect in hers. The deal is, they'll visit both places, with a stop at Grandma's in Pittsburgh inbetween. But the Chief is accident-prone, not to mention slapstick-prone, so things don't go as planned.
For one thing, her genius kid brother (Eshaya Draper) and his genius pet pig Albert (as in Einstein) have stowed away in the trunk. Melanie's excess baggage thus includes not only her dad but her bro and a porker.
The Chief hates Albert ("He keeps eyeing me!"), but the pig knows how to play chess and work a Rubik's cube. He is at his best, during the trip, when high-wired on caffeine, wreaking havoc at an ethnic wedding and otherwise contributing to the mobile misadventures.
This is, after all, a quasi-road comedy -- shades of "RV" and "Wild Hogs." One would not call the humor sophisticated. Director Roger Kumble and his scriptwriters have Lawrence hiding under a sorority-house bed and doing some impromptu skydiving with Raven. People get tasered a lot -- tasering, the new hilarity.
But at least Lawrence plays a relatively normal, semi-believable guy here, as opposed to the bulk of his bad boys and Big Mommas of the past.
Raven, for her part, doesn't remotely resemble a high school girl, but she does a mean "Double Dutch Bus" and she's -- well, "So Raven," constantly screaming with her constantly screaming girlfriends.
Look for a nice cameo by Sopranos' gangster Joseph Gannascoli as the father of the ill-fated bride who sings "It Had to Be You" at the ill-fated wedding.
Best of all, in a completely ridiculous way, is Donny Osmond as a Good Samaritan who assists our heroes on the road. Donny and his equally unbearable daughter do nonstop karaoke duets from Broadway shows ("King & I" is a favorite). When Lawrence offers him some gas money, Donny replies: "We charge hugs in this family!"
So it has its moments, it's nicely color-blind, and it's moral -- when the syrupy music and synthetic tears kick in -- is no hokier than usual: To thine own self be true.
Judging by the preview audience, "College Road" is a tweeners' delight (dozens were turned away) and a likely hit. A G-rated college film seems odd. But at least it takes us to two real places (Northwestern and Georgetown) -- though not the third one we wish for. If that house and neighborhood ("31 Oakdale") are Pittsburgh, I'm Ozzie and you're Harriet.
Lucky for the Chief that he didn't really live or work in Allegheny County. Taking his daughter cross-country to scout colleges in an official vehicle with "Police Dept." emblazoned on it? He'd face -- and deserve -- more charges than poor Cyril Wecht.
Post-Gazette film critic Barry Paris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .