Fatherhood has a way of changing people, even caustic comedians like Martin Lawrence. According to one televised interview, this once foul-mouthed, stand-up entertainer wanted to tame down to a G-rated performance so his kids could see Dad on screen.
In College Road Trip, Lawrence plays James Porter, an uptight and controlling parent whose daughter, Melanie (Raven-Symone) is about to graduate from high school. Her dream is to attend Georgetown University. His plan is to keep her closer to home where he can supervise her every move. However, when Melanie gets an unexpected interview at the prestigious Washington D.C. school, James decides to take a road trip and show her other options along the way.
While the film is free of obscenities and the sexually suggestive material seen in many other Martin Lawrence films like Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins and Big Momma’s House, the script still brandishes the repeated, unprovoked use of tazers and golf clubs as humorous weapons of violence.
Like so many movies in this genre, College Road Trip is packed with unbelievably destructive and bizarre events meant for amusement. After following their faulty GPS device deep into the backwoods, James and Melanie discover her little brother (Eshaya Draper) and his pet pig stowed away in the spare tire compartment. What should be a simple tire change results in the expensive cruiser rolling down a mountain, forcing the trio and their pig to hike to a nearby hotel. There the porker completely bulldozes an outdoor wedding reception after ingesting an entire bag of coffee beans. If the constant mayhem isn’t enough, the Porters also meet Doug (Donny Osmond) and Wendy (Molly Ephraim) Greenhut, a musically exuberant dad and daughter pair who are also scouting out perspective schools.
The script seems to have started out with good intentions, yet every effort to bond with the characters on this journey is soon sidelined by the inflated antics of nearly everyone on screen. Although the movie tries to drive home a tender ending as father and daughter both make the inevitable move into a new phase of life, 90 minutes of screaming girls and wild mishaps are a lot to endure for a few brief moments of sentiment.