Martin Lawrence's long, sad devolution from the poor man's young Eddie Murphy to the poor man's late-period Eddie Murphy continues with College Road Trip. Looking back at Lawrence's rocky career, the descent from X-rated riffs on female hygiene to G-rated Disney comedies with Donny Osmond seems dispiritingly inevitable. College Road Trip boasts the same cynical combination of slapstick and sentimentality as such previous family-friendly Lawrence joints as Big Momma's House and Rebound, only this time out the formula has been reversed. Where the earlier films undercut rampant slapstick shenanigans with drips of schmaltzy sentiment, Road Trip alternates vast expanses of sappy sentiment—fans of heartfelt conversations about feelings set to gently tinkling pianos will have a field day—with intermittent bursts of labored physical comedy. In a bid to tap into the lucrative Dr. Doolittle market, the filmmakers have given Lawrence a super-intelligent pig as a foil. Oh, how the hacky have fallen! Maybe they'll give Cuba Gooding Jr. the lead in the sequel.
In his tamest role to date, Lawrence stars as a ferociously overprotective Chicago-area police chief terrified that his beloved daughter ('tween phenomenon Raven-Symoné) will opt for Georgetown rather than matriculate at nearby Northwestern. So he embarks on a college road trip with his strong-willed, ambitious daughter that's equally stocked with physical comedy set-pieces and earnest speeches about the importance of letting go and trusting loved ones to make the right choices. It's a measure of how neutered Lawrence's shtick has become that Osmond continuously upstages him as a psychotically cheerful super-parent who's essentially a Successories poster brought to life.
The almost perversely colorblind College Road Trip represents a strange milestone in black film. Lawrence and company prove that a comedy about the very minor problems of well-to-do African-Americans can be just as bland and toothless as films about their Caucasian counterparts. Disney has finally made a movie that might just be too wholesome even for the Disney Channel.