Which is the more tired cliche: neglectful, workaholic dad, or tyrannically overprotective dad? Lawrence makes a strong case for the latter as James Porter, a Chicago police officer and family man who's not afraid to let the two roles mix, especially when it comes to taking care of his precious and precocious teenage daughter, Melanie (actress-singer Raven-Symone, star of Disney Channel's recently wrapped sitcom "That's So Raven" and one of the pic's exec producers).
James wants Melanie to go to nearby Northwestern U., but the aspiring attorney has her sights set on Georgetown. Naturally, the two must embark on an ill-advised road trip to the Washington, D.C., campus, as James tries to bond with his increasingly exasperated daughter and get her to change her plans by any bull-headed, manipulative means necessary.
While Melanie's sane, saintly mom (Kym E. Whitley) has the good sense to stay home, her younger brother Trey (Eshaya Draper) and his scene-stealing pet pig turn up as stowaways -- a sure sign that the central relationship may not be enough to sustain an 82-minute feature.
Things worsen when the Porters get stuck traveling with another daddy-daughter duo: Doug (Osmond) and Wendy (Molly Ephraim), who are so infernally upbeat, so prone to bursting into ghastly showtunes at the slightest opportunity, that their scenes together achieve a nightmarish, borderline-psychotic fascination. This is Osmond's first film since 1978's "Goin' Coconuts" (he contributed singing vocals to Disney toon "Mulan"); should Fox ever turn "The Simpsons" into a Broadway musical, they'll know where to find their Ned Flanders.
Credited to four writers, the script offers a lot of fat jokes, Asian-tourist jokes and food-fight setpieces, and nary a moment of recognizably human behavior: The shrill, bubbly mannerisms of Melanie and her girlfriends prove especially grating, suggesting barely disguised contempt for pic's tweener audience. Similarly, there's no reason for Melanie to suddenly bust out into a funky-clunky rendition of Frankie Smith's 1981 "Double Dutch Bus," except that she's played by Raven-Symone, and pop-star tie-ins take priority over character logic.
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