Friday, August 1, 2008
What Became of Olivia, Queen of Bolivia
THE FIVE POINTS OF FAMILY COMEDY (with apologies to John Calvin)
1. Pigs are funny.
2. Women are smarter than men.
3. Fathers are incapable of doing anything right.
4. Parents have unlimited vacation time.
5. Seriously, pigs are funny (especially if they're smart pigs).
Let me start by saying that I didn't go looking for this one. Sam had his annual birthday sleepover last weekend, and he wanted a movie to watch (which is fine by me, because if you push enough popcorn and Sprite in front of ten nine-year-olds, they'll get reasonably quiet for an hour and a half). So we were in Blockbuster debating which fine feature film to get.
A parental aside: you always have to be careful which movies you rent when other people's kids are coming over. You never know when they'll have some rule about not watching perfectly appropriate things - after all, we don't want a repeat of Sam's fifth birthday ("No, Mr. Barber I don't want my kindergartner watching a chainsaw movie." Whiner.)
Anyway, so COLLEGE ROAD TRIP is rated G, which is a rare thing these days. And it puts me above reproach. Unless the parents have taste.
COLLEGE ROAD TRIP faithfully follows all five of the above rules in the context of this plot: Martin Lawrence is an over-protective father who wants his daughter to go to Northwestern for college. Raven-Symone has her sights set on Georgetown Law. So dad and daughter take a trip across America to check out both schools. Along the way, there are many hilarious hijinks. Oh, and I forgot to tell this part - Raven's brother, a precocious little genius who has a pig (also a genius) for a pet, stow away. Oh yeah, and the pig beats the precocious genius at chess. And Donny Osmond is there.
Is it horrible? No. Is it offensive? No. Although, I do object to the father-as-idiot archetype that's so pervasive. I don't object because I'm not an idiot - certainly I am. But I know many fathers who are not idiots. Maybe a movie about one of them once in awhile might not be so bad, eh?
The crime of movies like this one is one of banality. Oh, I harbored no anticipation that there would be anything new or fresh here. I guess I'm just a little spoiled after seeing WALL-E. Family movies don't have to be awful. They really don't. They can be decent. Indeed, no one is asking for every family film to be a Pixar gem. But a little freshness wouldn't hurt. Maybe I'm being the "things were better when I was a kid guy," but they were! Films like THE GOONIES, FLIGHT OF THE NAVIGATOR, and ESCAPE FROM WITCH MOUNTAIN were unique. Now, for a family movie to be really good, it has to come from a great book (HARRY POTTER, LORD OF THE RINGS, NARNIA, etc). So the author does all of the heavy lifting. The studios, when asked for something original, give us COLLEGE ROAD TRIP.
Here's the encouraging part. WALL-E has made just over $200 million bucks worldwide. COLLEGE ROAD TRIP made $46 mil. So there's a silver lining. People aren't as stupid as we think. Except me - I paid to rent this one.
CRT gets one and a half Osmond twins out of five. Rant over.