Chicago police chief James Porter takes his daughter Melanie through local campuses in the G-rated comedy College Road Trip. Comedian Martin Lawrence and Disney star Raven-Symone combine comic forces to play James and Melanie. The setup is simple, but filmmakers can’t create great success in the comic or sentimental areas. Melanie’s forthcoming independence concerns her predictably overprotective father. Her legal school aspirations don’t quite match her father’s wishes for her living at a nearby college.
The strong comedic cast also includes Mrs. Porter, played by Kym Whitley, but the G rating eliminates more realistic interactions, replacing them with zany events that even border over-the-top. Raven-Symone makes a good start here for future, more mature comedies with veterans (i.e., Lawrence and Whitley) helping. Her facial features, along with Lawrence’s enhances the comedy for the kids. The adults will still get good entertainment, but might squirm in their seats a bit more, but not because it’s offensive. Director Roger Kumble does pretty well in the rare live-action G-rated comedy genre with a very short running time ideal for the little tykes – filmmakers cover that demographic with Melanie’s little brother named Trey, played by newcomer Eshaya Draper.
The story doesn’t explore enough of the father-daughter dynamic, skimming the surface with cut sequences between James’ discussions with his wife and Melanie’s talk with her friends. The eventual climax scene when the two finally work things out themselves does not have a large impact, but filmmakers may not be aiming for anything too emotional. The impending road trip sets up some potentially memorable comedy, which does not really succeed on a high level either, but some of the silly fare does entertain.
Distractions like the stowaway animal brought by Melanie’s brother and forced situations that don’t yield much change reflect the narrow scope of this 83-minute story. Another father/daughter college-hunting team played by Donny Osmond and newcomer Molly Ephraim (they love to sing) provide some friendly rivalry. Osmond hits the over-the-top roof a few times, but his past celebrity creates an advantage here.
Alternate scenes, Raven’s dairy, ten deleted scenes, alternate opening/endings and an almost required gag reel are included in the home video version. The menu explains the story visually in a few seconds (too bad all DVD menus don’t provide this helpful service). Blu-ray edition also available. This title will satisfy younger viewers more.