STUDIO: Walt Disney Video
MSRP: $29.99
RUNNING TIME: 83 minutes
• Two Audio Commentaries: Director Roger Kumble and Raven-Symone; writers Emi Mochizuki and Carrie Evans
• Gag Reel
• Deleted Scenes with optional commentary from director Roger Kumble
• Alternate Opening and Endings
• “Double Dutch Bus” Music Video Performed By Raven-Symone
• On The Set: Double Dutch Bus

The Pitch

Martin Lawrence does pathetic, embarassing things to himself and others in order to properly send his kid off to college. In other words, it’s a documentary of his last 10 years on film.

The Humans

Martin Lawrence, Raven Symone, Brenda Song, Kym Whitley, Donny Osmond

The Nutshell

James Porter (Martin Lawrence), Chief of Police in a small town, is the overbearing, overprotective father of Melanie (Raven-Symone), who’s on her way to college. When it becomes clear that Melanie wants to leave the nest as far behind as humanly possible by going to Georgetown, James intervenes, setting up a road trip to a college closer to home that fast turns into a road trip of disaster. Ha. Ha.

After hours of contemplation, Martin concluded that no, he would not be able to rest until he’d tried to fit his entire head in there.

The Lowdown

Because this reviewer is neither a 14 year old girl, or a father of multiple children, it is quite right to assume this film was not made for me, nor should I judge it as such. It is a Disney film, and anyone with a working brain can figure out what that entails in this day and age. These things are made by committee, voted on and approved by test audiences, sanitized, sterilized, and served on a shiny, inoffensive platter. Hell, I’m still puzzled how something as good as Sky High got through the Disney wringer of creativity.

However, I expected that, and from the looks of things, so did everyone involved, since nobody in this film is doing particularly memorable or engaging work behind or in front of the camera. Putting the disc in, I knew I would have to find some angle in which to view this with some sort of objectivity for a more discerning viewer than someone looking to get 90 minutes of silence out of their kids. The film did not let me down. The film went out of its way to show me, and anyone watching what it thinks of YOU, you miserable piece of shit suburbanite two-car garage highball inhaling low-standard having assholes.

10 minutes later, Pinhead would enjoy the best damn pulled pork sandwich he’d had in years.

What the film thinks is this: If you laugh at, identify with, or find entertainment within the 90 minutes of this film, you are not only guilty of having an easy sense of humor just north of being delighted when someone jingles a set of keys over your head, but worshipping your children. And not in the George Carlin, “adults shouldn’t be inconvenienced to cater directly to your mewling self-entitled crotchspawn” kind of way. I mean in the Norman Bates sense, where you are in very serious danger of one day nailing your kid’s head above the fireplace mantle so every time you walk in the living room, you have the ability to say “Somehow, I just feel like our little Suzy’s RIGHT HERE IN THE ROOM WITH US.”

The film seems quite okay with a scenario where a daughter’s police chief father gets guys from his department to stage a scenario where the promise of arranged sex/marriage would be enough to deter her from moving too far away, or the father follows her daughter to her friends’ boarding house and sleeps under their bed to ensure she’s not having sex, or where the entertainment for a father daughter road trip is provided by a box of things the girl enjoyed when she was a toddler, or where said father damn near keeps his own mother prisoner in her own home, installing a security system in her home that would give Batman a hard-on. In between all that, the film is full of little side moments undoubtedly borne of a dozen board meetings that started with a bunch of guys in suits sitting around a table spouting the sentence “You know what would be funny?” Smartass animals. Super genius kids. Cheap fat jokes. Golf cart car chase. Skydiving into Georgetown. Spontaneous musical numbers involving Japanese tourists. Hip, dancing grandmas. Donny Osmond.

Michael Corleone says Hollaback.

To me, functionally retarded as they are, these scenes are the excuse, the oversugared candy apple hiding the razor. The main thread running through this film is the conceit that once the upper middle class suburban life has been obtained, it must be protected and preserved at all costs. Even when Martin Lawrence’s James Porter “learns a valuable lesson” at the end of the film, the very act of him letting his daughter go off on her own is treated with all the pride and joy of the Kennedy assassination. That’s not to say watching your baby go off to college isn’t an important yet bittersweet event, but if ever there was a movie that reinforces that the main problem isn’t kids growing up, it’s a husband and wife having to deal with each other for the first time in decades, this is it.

I have no doubts that this movie found a small, loyal audience that only watches movies with their families, and settles for little more than “Well, the little kid trying to get in touch with the Secretary of Defense was funny” to give the movie a pass, but somewhere in there, there’s undoubtedly a group of fathers that looked at the scenes of James being Mr. Overprotective and went “Yeah, I know that feeling”. And I hope that guy pauses dead in his tracks, reevaluates his life as a parent, and promptly burns his house to the ground. I hope he realizes the film is laughing at him, not with him, and that this is what Disney thinks you want to see, how it thinks you act when you get the house in Great Neck, the 2.5 kids, and the brand spankin’ new grill in the backyard. I hope he decides to give his kids a call and apologize if they feel he ever kept them under such a physical and emotional lock and key.

But more than anything, I hope it means he cancels his subscription to the goddamn Disney Channel.

While reactions to David Lynch’s Charlotte’s Web were mixed at best, critics and audiences were at least able to agree, “It’s still better than Dune.”

The Package

I’m absolutely stunned how this trifling movie got a DVD this stacked with features its core audience will never touch and yet I can’t get a Speed Racer SE if I sacrificed goats for one. Anyway, for starters, there’s two commentary tracks, and between the two, within 10 minutes of each, no matter what else was said, you know everything about this flick you need to know. The first track is director Roger Kumble and Raven-Symone (who also executive produced), and they have a sort of goofy father/spunky daughter chemistry on the track that’s genuinely kinda sweet and made sitting through the flick one more time much more tolerable. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that this straight-laced, happy-go-lucky, father type wrote and directed the sexually pervasive (and woefully underrated) Cruel Intentions way back when, but it becomes clear very quickly that the two of them were basically just handed a script, attempted to have as much G-rated fun with it as they could while getting their friends and family involved, and then at the end, Disney cut them a fat ass check.

It’s the screenwriters’ track that tells the other half of the story. The only thing missing from Carrie Evans and Emi Mochizuki’s commentary is a moment where someone asks them to say “Come and play with us, Danny” in unison to the microphone. There’s no enthusiasm, no insight beyond “we thought it would be nice” or “we like [insert actor/Disney Channel Show/our kids] a lot”, and there’s an insane amount of dead space in between. These are obviously grown women, and the fact that they have little more to say on this track that couldn’t be accomplished by two giggling 13 year olds on their first tabs of ecstasy on the track explains a lot about the film. These two wrote to the best of their capabilities. What we got was this. That makes these two frightening, and the fact that Kumble was able to inject a spark of energy into the thing a bit impressive.

Donny Osmond sings. Then he dances. Then he feeds. So it has been for centuries.

After that, there’s Raven’s Video Diary, which should’ve been a crappy little filler feature given that it’s Raven narrating like she’s talking to pre-schoolers while sticking the camera at whoever will talk to it, but the reactions are entertaining enough to give it a pass.

The deleted scenes and alternate opening/endings are mostly more of the same crap we got fed during the movie, though there’s a scene in the middle of a forest with Raven-Symone playing a federal agent where she actually gets to show off something resembling comedic chops. Kumble does commentary on them all, and he’s at least honest when says he screwed up, even by this movie’s standards. The gag reel is weak, though it does have Donny Osmond screaming at the top of his lungs “My career has come to this?!”

Lastly, not only is there a music video for the ear-hating Double Dutch Bus song featured in the film, but for reasons beyond comprehension, there’s a 2 minute, behind-the-scenes featurette for it. This set has more than anybody who actually spent money and enjoyed this movie deserves.

3.5 out of 10