Raven-Symoné stars in a family comedy so base and shoddy it could be titled That's So Craven.
She's a very mature-looking high-schooler with her heart set on Georgetown University. But her helicopter father (Martin Lawrence) wants to keep her closer to home, at Northwestern. (Most parents would be delighted if their child got into either of these universities.)
Daughter and overprotective dad set out to visit schools in his snazzy police cruiser. (His department must have a generous policy on personal use of vehicles.) They are joined by a pair of stowaways: her nerdy, goggle-wearing younger brother (Eshaya Draper) and the boy's pet piglet.
Mayhem ensues in the form of wedding crashes, a bus full of Japanese karaoke tourists, and skydiving into downtown Washington (although it looks from the air far more like rural Virginia). College Road Trip is like a really bad episode of I Love Lucy: empty antics strung together with unseemly gusto.
The little oinker Albert (played by a series of Vietnamese potbellies) is hardly a scene-stealer, but this film desperately calls upon him time and time again to save its comedic bacon.
It is rare for a movie to feature a pig and not have the creature be the hammiest thing on the screen. But Raven-Symoné and Lawrence are both outrageous overactors. They go together like Mentos and Pepsi.
But wait, College Road Trip has a bonus disaster: Donnie Osmond in a toxic recurring cameo as a fellow campus-visiting dad. He's an annoyingly perky, cliche-spewing ("Shiver me timbers"), show-tune-singing imbecile. In other words, you get Donnie's Branson stage act in a concentrated form.
The whole project is a cloying, artificial mess. The slapstick comedy doesn't bite, and the formulaic sentimentality doesn't grip. This is strictly phi beta crappa.
College Road Trip * (out of four stars)
Directed by Roger Kumble. With Raven-Symoné, Martin Lawrence, Donny Osmond and Eshaya Draper. Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures.
Running time: 1 hour, 26 mins.
Parent's guide: G.
Playing at: select area theaters.
Contact staff writer David Hiltbrand
at 215-854-4552 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/daveondemand.