Wednesday, 29 May 2024

Disney's 'Road Trip' paved with its standard comic fare


Once the bad boy of comedy, Martin Lawrence has mellowed so much in recent years that it was inevitable he’d end up in G-rated Disney fare like “College Road Trip.” Even last year’s “Wild Hogs,” with its PG-13 rating, was racier. Unless he gets back to his nightclub standup routines with haste, Lawrence may be doomed to endless sequels of “Big Momma’s House,” and that’s no way to enhance a career. It’s bad enough that he’s upstaged by a scene-stealing pet pig.

Lawrence’s James Porter is a control freak, particularly when it comes to dealing with his precocious teenage daughter Melanie (Disney Channel’s singing sensation Raven-Symone). Police chief in a Chicago suburban town, James is anxious for Melanie to attend Northwestern, if only because it’s a short ride from home and he can keep an eye on his first-born child. Smart and ambitious, Melanie has other ideas about her college future, one that focuses singularly upon acceptance to Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

After making a good impression on judges at a mock trial, Melanie is invited for an interview at Georgetown, and for spring break she plans a road trip with school buddies Nancy (Brenda Song) and Katie (Margo Harshman).

But the girls-only trip to check out prospective colleges is disrupted by the insistence of James to escort his daughter. The meddlesome father is so neurotic, crazy and overprotective that it’s only a matter of time before things start to go horribly wrong.

Early on in the trip, James discovers that his young son Trey (Eshaya Draper) and the pet pig are stowaways in the back of his police SUV. Trey and the pig are the gifted members of the family. Often they play chess together while taking a bubble bath. The bright pig, who should be a candidate for a college interview, is a comic foil for James, usually because the lovable pet has an unnerving way of eyeballing the police chief.

The accident-prone father’s plans to protect and serve his daughter go awry at every turn. For one thing, an effort to bypass highway traffic turns into disaster when the SUV ends up at the bottom of a ravine.

Circumstances force the family into a carpool with an impossibly cheerful father-and-daughter team on their own road trip. Decades removed from his last film, Donny Osmond plays Doug Greenhut as so maniacally perky while singing show tunes with his daughter Wendy (Molly Ephraim) that he’s borderline psychotic. It won’t even take a second song to get the feeling the Greenhut family belongs in a padded cell.

“College Road Trip” goes the extra mile to put father and daughter in a constant state of bickering and bantering, with plenty of slapstick situations thrown in almost at random. James will do his manipulative best to undermine Melanie’s desire for independence, even staging phony encounters on the Northwestern campus.

Then there are the serious hijinks of the family pig causing complete mayhem at a hotel wedding, resulting in the party tent collapsing and the bride ending up with a face full of wedding cake.

Other mishaps include the family hitching a ride with a busload of Japanese tourists who love to sing karaoke, and this is an invitation for yet one more opportunity for Melanie to sing a rendition of “Double Dutch Bus.” At the last leg of the trip, James and Melanie hitch a plane ride with a USA diving team, not realizing that their sport had nothing to do with water.

Befitting the Disney tradition, “College Road Trip” is filled with sentimental family bonding and an abundance of life lessons. Given that the market for family films is so greatly underserved, this film has enough laughs for the younger audience it intends to attract. You can drop off your kids for “College Road Trip” and not worry about the consequences.


More than 20 years ago, Tom Hanks starred as the fun-loving guy who was going to marry the girl of his dreams in “Bachelor Party.” His wacky buddies decided to have a blowout party at a fashionable hotel. Comic mayhem ensued. Attempting to recapture the magic of that film is the direct-to-video release of “Bachelor Party 2: The Last Temptation.” Not for lack of effort, this indirect sequel doesn’t measure up to the inventiveness of the original.

“Bachelor Party 2” tries too hard by pushing the envelope of the “sex comedy” with an overabundance of booze-soaked debauchery. Harland Williams is the only recognizable person in this movie, though the publicity advertising touts ultra-sexy Emmanuelle Vagier for being named one of Maxim’s Hot 100 Girls.

One of the bachelor’s buddies gets the wrong idea about the pretty girls at the sex addicts’ convention. As the blowout weekend takes place in Miami, it’s not surprising that the hotel is full of bikini-clad hotties and strippers bent on seduction.

“Bachelor Party 2” is probably the adolescent male’s idea of a sendoff for a buddy headed to matrimony.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.


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