Reviews

College Road Trip

Lesley Smith

College Road Trip' real focus is the treacherous, slippery ground of middle school girldom, where BFFs rule and even the coolest parents are a social liability.


College Road Trip

Director: Roger Kumble
Cast: Martin Lawrence, Raven-Symoné, Kym E. Whitley, Eshaya Draper, Arnetia Walker, Donny Osmond
MPAA rating: G
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
First date: 2008
US Release Date: 2008-03-07 (General release)
Website
Trailer

College Road Trip ostensibly charts a high-achieving senior’s battle against parental panic in her passage from adored daughter to Ivy League student. But its real focus is the treacherous, slippery ground of middle school girldom, where BFFs rule and even the coolest parents are a social liability. Here, there’s never an exclamation that isn’t a cacophony of screams, a change in expression that isn’t a mugging for the camera. And all father-daughter exchanges evoke discomforting Freudian shivers down the adult spine.

The daughter is 17-year-old Melanie (Raven-Symoné, last year dubbed the "$400 Million Dollar Woman" by Ebony magazine), her father James (Martin Lawrence), a successful professional (a police chief, in fact) who turns emotionally clueless the minute he's granted 21st-century surveillance technology. He tracks his daughter’s every move via cell phone, fills shelf after shelf with videos of her since babyhood, and determines to the minute (40) the acceptable distance she may travel from home to enroll in college. Melanie tolerates his obsession with a weary maturity, wholly at odds to her reaction to every other event in the movie (a really loud shriek, accompanied by frenzied hand-waving, stray dance moves, and a lot of bouncing up and down).

The movie charts their road trip to deliver Melanie to a once-in-a-lifetime interview at distant Georgetown. Throughout, both parties chomp on the scenery in scenes that range from pained to sentimental to cloying. Supporting players appear to be inserted to amuse hapless family members who might find themselves dragged to this movie by their 12-year-old females: Melanie’s genius baby brother Trey (cute Eshaya Draper) plays chess with his pet pig, while her mother (Kym E. Whitley) proves a surprisingly sturdy foil to James’ excesses, tolerating her family's antics in a way that echoes many working mothers. Even Grandma (Arnetia Walker) has a cameo, reminding James that he, too, once was young and ready to leave home.

But while far too much is said about the father-daughter dynamic, very little is said about their cultural milieu. As in so many Disney movies, conflict in College Road Trip is superficial, never threatening family solidarity. They live in a neverland of regulated racial coexistence, where friendships happily cross the color line, but white girls date white boys and black girls dates black boys. The patronage of a white judge impressed by her mock-court performance secures Melanie the bump from Georgetown’s wait list to its interview list.

On the other hand, the movie also quietly assumes that the black bourgeoisie have as much right to the pleasures (and parental pains) of the single-family, white-porch-and-plenty ‘burbs as their white counterparts, while the curvy Raven-Symoné is a very welcome alternative to the wan nymphet anorexics who headline most teen comedies and dramas. Perhaps worse, the movie offers another, even less convincing father and daughter pairing, Doug (Donny Osmond) and Katie (Margo Harshman). If Melanie and James behave like a loving married couple heading for amicable divorce, Doug and Margo behave like giddy honeymooners, complacent in blue and pink, warbling their way through the American songbook as they pop up in location after location. In them, the audience glimpses the surreality of white suburbia's argyle-sweater and golf-club niceness.

Despite the broad oppositions, a whiff of incrementalism hangs around this movie, with its images of integration that don't yet amount to equality. Such harmony might reassure the tween demographic and focus its attention on the aspirational triumph of Melanie’s story. But it will not prepare any of Raven-Symoné’s fans, black or white, for the realities they encounter outside the cinema. Perhaps in a year or two, Raven-Symoné, who snags an executive producer credit on this movie, will look harder at high school and find more convincing stories.

5

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less
Culture

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less
Books

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image