College Road Trip

Posted on July 15, 2008 at 8:00 am

college%20road%20trip.jpgWhat bugs me the most about this movie is not that it is cynical, synthetic, exploitative, and lazy, though it is all of those things. It is not that it alternates being dull with being both painful and dull, though it is both of those things. What bugs me the most is that it has no idea who its audience is and does not seem to care.

A successful G-rated movie can be for all ages but it must by definition have a plot and characters with some appeal for children. Usually, the best way to do this is to have a significant and engaging character who is a child. This is a movie about a high school senior (TV star Raven-Symone as Mel) who wants to go to college far away from home. The whole issue of this major separation that feels so natural at age 17 is something that young children not only do not identify with easily; some may find it downright disturbing.
The major idea of the movie, played for high humor, is Mel’s over-protective father (Martin Lawrence James, a cop). This can be done in a way that is illuminating and resonant (see Finding Nemo — please, instead of this movie). Here, it seems inappropriate and downright creepy, especially since it is so out of proportion to James’ devotion to his wife, which seems lukewarm by comparison, and to his super-bright young son. Not over-protective here, James’ treatment of his other child falls somewhere between being distant and being repelled. The only other person James is fixated on is his mother, who is so terrified of his interference in her life that she cannot let him know about her wild side: she likes to dance.
This plays out over a driving-from-Illinois-to-Washington plot that would make even the lightweight storylines of That’s So Raven seem literary. It would make the lightweight storylines of a Bazooka Joe comic strip seem literary. How many times have we seen the hyper-cheery white family who relentlessly sing show tunes? How many times has there been the adorably disruptive stow-away? How many times has there been the pet pig who ruins the wedding of the plus-size bride by topplng a life-size butter statue of her in her wedding dress? Okay, we haven’t seen that one before but that’s because no one should ever have to see it — ever. The same goes for Mel’s telling her parents that she is going to study and instead running off to a weirdly G-rated rave and not one but two completely un-funny mix-ups involving characters with gender-neutral names. There is also something weirdly off in having Mel’s family be pretty much the only African-Americans on the planet (except when a presentable potential date for Mel is called for) as well as the stereotyped bus full of Japanese karaoke singers who happily provide back-up for Raven-Symone’s big musical number.
This is the kind of baloney that a pre-sold brand produces because no one cares whether it is any good. But parents should insist on better than this condescending pre-fab fan-fodder. Movies, like doctors, should pledge to first do no harm. This one will leave anyone who is looking for comedy, heart, or story a little bruised.
Parents should know that while this movie is rated G it does have some mild potty humor and bad teenage and adult behavior. Characters lie, steal, housebreak, and cause a good deal of chaos and destruction without any consequences. A character uses a gun for target practice and two characters get tased.
Families who see this movie should talk about why it was hard for Mel to talk to her father. Why was it hard for her father to let her go?
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Dr. Dolittle and That’s So Raven – Supernaturally Stylish with Raven-Symone.

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35 Replies to “College Road Trip”

  1. Seems like your upset you went to this movie.. That’s why they have Movie Trailers.. Just because didn’t enjoy the movie doesn’t mean someone else won’t.. G-rated movies are enjoyed by people 2 to 82.

  2. Well, as a movie critic my job is to review movies, so that means I go to good ones and bad ones and write what I think so people can read it and decide whether the movie will be right for them. I do not think this movie will be enjoyed by anyone, whether 2, 82, or in between, but if you see it and want to explain what I missed, I’d be happy to hear it. I am always glad when someone sees more in a movie than I do. (But don’t kid yourself — trailers are often misleading.)

  3. i think your wrong i think it would be a cute and funny movie for kids but i do agree about the tasers and guns and stuff so it should be rated pg but most of what you said i disagree because its funny and cute

  4. I disagree with your reveiw I took my daughters to see this movie (ages 10 &13), we laughed and it was cute and non offensive. I even teared up a little at the thought of sending my kids off to college. Your evaluation was harsh

  5. Shannon — look at it again — I am pretty sure the statue was not made of marble. Emily and Stephanie, thanks for writing! Opinions differ, especially in comedies, and I am glad you and your families enjoyed the film.

  6. took my 10 and 14 yr old daughters to see this movie and we all laughed out loud all through it! I thought it was a great family film that emphasized that its alright, and very good to be close to your parents, and its also very good to give your parents reason to trust you! we loved it and highly recommend it for family viewing. I, too, had some tears at the end…

  7. The movie was highly funny. We went to see this as entire extended family: parents, grandparents, children, neices, nephews, sisters and brothers inlaws. The ages ranged from 1-80. We had several college grads who had experienced some of the things depicted in this film. We all felt that someone had peeked into my household and watched how my husband is with our daughter, a rising freshman, and foretold our story. He to is overprotective. This was pure entertainment. Some moral and social meanings could be brought out of this movie such as the importance of honesty no matter how old you are, the reality that parents and children experience seperation anxiety and the reality that at certains stages in life when you have multiple offspring, more attention is devoted to the one in need as needed.
    We also have to be careful not to expect the movie industry, media, music, political or even sports arena to serve as role models for our children, or as instructers on life. We should have the greatest influence on our own families.

  8. i think you need to get a life. i took my 2 neices yesterdAY and they loved it, they laughed to hole time, not only was it a serious matter regarding kids who leave home for college and the issues with that, but it had its funny parts

  9. I am enjoying the comments from the people who liked the movie much, much more than I enjoyed the movie! I’m glad you had such a good time.

  10. Comedies aren’t supposed to make sense or be accurate . . . case in point .. Blues Brothers and City Clickers .. and anything with Laurel and Hardy, the Marx Brothers or the Three Stooges .. they are supposed to make you laugh ..
    live with it . . .
    by the way .. I have not seen the movie but understand the gendra

  11. I took my 11 year old daughter, and 3 and 6 year old sons to this the other day while my husband and 9 year old son went to 10,000 BC. We all enjoyed it. No it wasn’t the greatest movie ever but it was nice to be able to go to a funny movie where I wasn’t worried the whole time about inappropriate things. We will buy this movie for sure because it will be one we can watch over and over again and laugh at. I actually cried in this thinking about how I will be when my kids leave. I felt like I could relate to the Dad’s way of thinking though he was definitely over the top in over protectiveness. I just wish the movie industry made more G rated family movies because there are definitely not many!

  12. I do not agree with your rating of the movie. No I did not go a see it but I have seen some movies that are really bad and should never have cross the screen, but at least I can say this about the movie they are thinking about college, that is a plus and as far as funny every one do not have to like funny in the same way. At least I can say that it was no sex, bad language, killing because it is on regular tv now so when you find something that is some what plent in those areas you have to say Thank God.
    It may not be a movie that I would go see but I probably would like to buy it because it seem like a movie you can so what understand. So taking your child to 10,000 B.C. is better?

  13. You know, everyone is entitled to his/her opinion about just about anything, but I often wonder about those who actually spend a good deal of their time being a “reviewer”? What gives any reviewer the right to trash something simply because they do not like it? That’s your opinion, great, but to present it to others as if it is fact, and as if your opinion is the one we should all listen to and believe in is arrogant and self indulgent and “reviewers” who spend their time doing this should find something better to do! I will make up my own mind about what I feel is enjoyable or appropriate for my child. We saw this movie yesterday and we laughed all the way through it. We enjoyed it, and I am so glad I saw it before a negative opinion like yours ruined it for me.

  14. Great comments everyone! Keep them coming.
    Holtonfb: I love wild, silly, off-the-wall comedies like the ones you describe as you can see from my other reviews. This one does not come close.
    Ohana6: I wish Hollywood made more family-friendly movies, too! It isn’t enough for me that there is nothing offensive, though — I think children are as entitled as adults to movies that are intelligent (even silly comedies), imaginative, and inspiring. As you will see from my review later this week, there is a great one coming out, “Horton Hears a Who.”
    Sonya: If you do see the movie, I’d love to hear what you think. It is hard for you to defend a movie you have not seen, though. And if you read my review of “10000 B.C.” you know it did not get an enthusiastic recommendation from me. But I think for its target audience (older than for this film) it delivers a little bit better than “College Road Trip.”
    Lisa: If you read the review, I think you will see that there is a difference between what I present as fact and what I present as opinion. It is not the job of a critic to talk about how the audience responded or count the box office but to express an opinion — ideally, in a way that is interesting to read, adds insights and context the reader might not have considered, and gives you an idea of whether you might find the movie appealing and appropriate for your family. If you are looking for a critic who is more representative of your taste, you will be able to find one. I generally learn more from those I don’t agree with, though. It was my disagreement with the critics I read (which made me think more clearly about why I felt differently) that led me to become one myself, so maybe you can do the same!
    Thanks again to all who posted!

  15. You know what’s important to remember about movies folks, that they are movies. Nothing more, nothing less, they don’t have any more of a message than a book, especially since a lot of them come from books, a book being acted out. If you go to a movie looking for more than a story, you might want to look into something that’s labeled, a true story or taken from a true story, or documentary, something along those lines because movies like “College Road Trip” or “10000 BC” aren’t offering any big revelation or any big deal for that matter. They are just stories. One makes you laugh, the other one makes gasp every now and then, but that’s it.
    Critics, professionals or wannabes, all have to say something to spark you, to get your attention, or else you won’t read them. And who needs a critic that nobody reads? Newspapers and these web sites don’t stand behind them because it’s all opinion. Siskel and Ebert couldn’t even agree with each other half of the time, so why should you agree with a critic? Do what a lot of people do. Go into a movie after reading or hearing a critic with a mind set exactly opposite of what they think, you’ll find you enjoy it more by not believing what they think matters. We do it all the time and find we enjoy the movie more by discounting what’s been said. It really works!

  16. Ve Lee — I have no problem with your critique of critics — after all, those who criticize for a living have to be prepared to be criticized ourselves. I think you misunderstand what the purpose of a review is, though. Critics have no interest in telling anyone what to think. As I said above, we just want to explain what we think in a way that we hope people will find interesting, illuminating, and valuable. It seems to me that if you have found reviews that help you get the right mindset for a movie, they’ve done their job. I think it is great that movies inspire so many different reactions. The best thing for me about a movie is when it sparks an interesting conversation.
    I do disagree with your statement that books and movies do not have important messages, even trivial ones. Everything we read and see influences us. It is the power of that influence, harnessing it, responding to it, always being very aware of it, that keeps me doing what I do. There is, after all, a multi-billion dollar industry devoted to the idea that we can be influenced by stories and images and music and dialogue — it is called advertising. And it seems to work. We are not aware most of the time of how pervasive those messages are and how influenced we are by them.
    It used to be that the three great influences on a child’s life were church, school, and parents. I believe that for most families the media is equal to or greater than the influence of the other three. As former FCC Commissioner Nicholas Johnson once said, “All television is educational. The question is what we are learning from it.” We don’t have the luxury of saying that it is fine for our children to learn the alphabet from “Sesame Street” or think that it is cute when a toddler sings the jingle from an ad, but that they should think it is “only a movie” when it shows people behaving badly, anything from being disrespectful to having casual sex, lying, or breaking the law. I’ll bet you and everyone else here have been deeply affected at some time by a movie, probably more than by a book. There’s a reason that the Bible is filled with stories — stories are what speak to our deepest selves, far more than rules or lectures. And movies are, in my opinion, the most powerful story-telling format ever devised.
    This does not mean that I think every movie has to be deep and every portrayal has to be exemplary. But it does mean that I think about the messages in movies and that it is part of my job to remind other people to do so as well.
    Thanks for posting a comment and I hope you will come back often.

  17. Boy am I glad I found you again…when you went missing from Yahoo, I was so upset…..up until now, you have been the deciding factor in appropriate movies for my 11 year old daughter…..”if Movie Mom says it’s age appropriate, then you can see it” and my daughter couldn’t blame me for making my own (“unfair”) assessment… you’re the heavy again and i couldn’t be happier…..Welcome Back and don’t ever do that to me again:)

  18. Thanks, Lydia, and I hope to stay here at Beliefnet for the duration! I’m glad to be the bad guy for parents any time! (Also always happy to respond to rants from unhappy tweens and teens — tell them to email me any time.)

  19. I mean come on a “D” what are you talking about. this movie was great and iw ould reccomend it to everyone. one of the best movies ive seen all year.

  20. Thanks for posting, Robert! As I have said before, I am always happy when someone sees more in a movie than I do. And it would be great if you would tell us what it was about the movie you liked and where you disagreed with my review so that the people who read this site can hear your point of view.

  21. Would you say this is an okay film for older teens, say juniors and seniors in high school? There’s really so little out there for kids this age to go to the show together to see.

  22. Hi, Ellen! I don’t think it would be of much interest for high schoolers. It is really directed at elementary school kids. Honestly, I think “Horton Hears a Who” is a better film for all ages.

  23. A rating of “D” is completely unfair. We went to see this movie with a group of kids and moms and we all loved it !! Raven is one of THE
    MOST responsible young stars out there and her work should be celebrated. The movie is really good and actually touching at the end as Raven goes off to college. I can’t think of a better mesage than a nuclear family who loves their children and is exploring the college process. My daughter is 9 who saw the movie and she her friends loved it !!
    I usually check movie mom before letting my kids go to the movies but I so glad I did NOT check before going to see this movie.
    This is from my 9 year old daughter :How could you give this movie a D it was the BEST movie.This is one of WORST reviews you ever did.

  24. Yeah, this was not a good movie. I didn’t see it, didn’t need to. These movies are all the same. Only someone who is extremely sappy and small-minded would like this movie.

  25. Thanks, Shelby and thanks especially to your daughter — I hope you will add your comments to my reviews often. It is reactions like yours that will help visitors to the site get a fuller picture of the movies I review.
    I did not get the sense that the father in this movie was anything but a caricature and his devotion to his daughter seemed to be more about him than about her. But as I have said, I am always glad when someone sees more in a movie than I do and I found your comments very worthwhile.

  26. I always depend on your reviews to let me know EXACTLY what I’ll find in a movie – ratings mean so little these days that even a PG movie can be loaded with sexual innuendo. I base my decision as to whether or not my kids can see a movie on your detailed reviews. Thank you so much for doing this for all parents. In addition to the “is it appropriate?” question, who has money to waste on a not-so-good movie that you can just as well see for free very soon?
    That said, those who disagreed with your review were rather entertaining in their unique usage of grammar, syntax, spelling, etc. :o)

  27. Why are you being so very hard on this cute movie…I’m glad I didn’t take your advise. My three nephews ages 6,10 and 11 loved this movie and RAVEN” . They can’t wait til it comes out on DVD. . We appreciate your advise but loosen up a little and just enough the movie!

  28. I saw this movie when I was 23, and I loved it! I can’t understand why you are so hard on this movie. I laughed my head off! My mom enjoyed it too (I won’t tell you how old she is). I agree with one comment that the people that review these films state it as if it were fact. They need to lighten up, and find something else to do if they can’t see these movies for what they are-just good clean fun. Now, if there was bad language, sex, violence, etc., then you definitely should mention that. I thought that was your mission to begin with. But the majority of your most recent reviews have slammed decent movies. So, again, lighten up. Enough said.

  29. Thanks very much, Trista and Sherri! As I have said before, I am always glad when someone sees more in a movie than I do. All any critic can do is explain his or her own reaction to a movie and I am very happy that this format gives people who disagree the opportunity to give their views as well. I appreciate your comments and hope you will post again any time you disagree with me — or even if you agree!

  30. “How many times has there been the pet pig who runs the wedding of the plus-size bride with a life-size butter statue of her in her wedding dress?” If ‘runs’ is meant to be ruins, I may have caught my first typo!
    I feel like Martin Lawrence has made his own genre of lackluster movies. Keep up the good work, Nell!

  31. You got one, Jon! Just nine more to go for a copy of my book. And you are so right about Martin Lawrence, who has made a string of disappointing movies. Thanks for the kind words!

  32. Well i
    loved the movie
    becuase i am in 6 grade
    i love raven so
    college road trip was the best movie
    i saw it will all of my best friends
    and we loved it

  33. Thanks for writing, Alex and I’m glad you and your friends enjoyed the movie!

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