Are We There Yet? (2005) / Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG for language, crude humor and mild violence
Running Time: 91 min.
Cast: Ice Cube, Philip Daniel Bolden, Aleisha Allen, Nia Long, M.C. Gainey, Jay Mohr, Tracy Morgan (voice), Nichelle Nichols
Director: Brian Levant
Screenplay: Steven Gary Banks, Claudia Grazioso, J. David Stern, David N. Weiss
From the moment you hear the name Ice Cube (Barbershop, Torque) associated with a genre that is usually described as "heartwarming", "cute", or "fun for the whole family", you know something must be amiss right from the conceptual stage (he is partially responsible for the creation of it to soften his image). The irony is that he isn't really bad in the movie, but damn near everything else is. Taking a look at the credential of its director, Brian Levant, I suppose you know what you're getting yourself into. His resume includes equally unfunny, broad comedies like Jingle All the Way, Problem Child 2, and Snow Dogs. Looks like someone's overdue in having his director's license revoked.
The premise of this latest insult to the intelligence of your common moviegoer is that kid-hating sports memorabilia salesman, Nick (Ice Cube), becomes so enamored with an attractive professional woman named Suzanne (Nia Long, Alfie), that he agrees to not only overlook the fact that she has two children, Kevin and Lindsey, but he even volunteers to take the children to catch a flight from Portland to Vancouver to meet her while she's on a business trip. Through a series of contrived mishaps, they can't go by plane, or even by train, so all that's left is Nick's brand spanking-new SUV to take the two brats, who are adamantly opposed to their mother seeing anyone instead of their estranged father (Henry Simmons, Taxi), up to Vancouver himself. With Nick hating kids, and the kids hating this potential obstacle between their parents getting back together, it soon becomes a battle of the fittest to see if Nick can get the kids to their mother without going completely over the edge as they make his life a living hell every step of the way.
Are We There Yet? may be a PG movie, generally considered safe for family viewing, but it has a surprising crudeness that leaves a nasty aftertaste. As you'd expect, the children are sadistic brats, who find enjoyment in doing bodily harm to all of their mother's would--be suitors, with almost no regard for the damage they do or the disastrous potential results of their actions. Then there are the bodily function jokes, including a flatulent babysitter, a boy urinating in a woman's face, and a horrendously crude projectile vomiting scene that almost resulted in me doing the same. The mother comes off as shallow and petulant, leading many of us in the viewing audience with the feeling that the father that walked away from this family probably did the right thing.
Then there are the curious mixed messages of the film, where Ice Cube tries to impart some knowledge about not getting too attached to material things. This seems disingenuous for a man whose sole occupation is the selling of material objects in the form of sports memorabilia, and who drives around in a brand new SUV, complete with spinning chrome rims. Later, he pays the children to keep their traps shut, offers them presents, and even gives them his "blingage". One wonders if the children feel a change of heart toward him solely due to the fact that since daddy doesn't want them, they can milk as many presents out of him as possible.
Almost everything that occurs can be predicted long beforehand, as you can almost see the gears shifting in the background throughout this wholly mechanical plot. Without much inspiration or originality, the film's purpose is quite clear -- to make Ice Cube palatable enough to mainstream audiences for him to enjoy more commercial vehicles. Perhaps it is successful in this regard, as Cube does show a softer side that doesn't seem too artificial, although one can't help but intentionally laugh as he handles the saccharine romance elements, which are among the film's worst moments. It doesn't help that Nia Long's character is as shallow and bland as a female lead has been in a semi-romantic comedy, whose only real assets seems to be her winning smile and generously low-cut dresses.
Pure dross, Are We There Yet? offers only stereotypical characterizations and a heaping helping of mean-spiritedness, alternating with spoon-fed, mindless pap. Unless you enjoy purely unoriginal slapstick comedy of the broadest variety, my recommendation is to stay far, far away from this idiotic excursion into unfathomable inanity. Also, if you are a fan of legendary pitcher Satchel Paige, you'd have to be disgusted at the stereotypical way he is portrayed (voiced by SNL alum, Tracy Morgan) as a jive-talking bobble-head doll (If this were in a movie with predominantly white characters, it would be universally branded as racist). Don't subject yourself to this toxic concoction. It's a film so bad that, just like the title quandary asked by anxious children on any road trip, you'll keep asking yourself throughout, "Is it over yet?"
-- Followed by Are We Done Yet? (2007)
©2005 Vince Leo