Directed by: Brian Levant
Starring: Ice Cube, Nia Long, Aleisha Allen, Philip Bolden, Jay Mohn, Nichelle Nichols
This spectacularly unfunny comedy expends four full reels questioning the wisdom of procreation, only to turn around and conclude it's the greatest thing in life in the fifth.
Now, that bewhiskered chestnut may still have a mile or two left in it under the right conditions. Those conditions, however, would require something better than an atrocious screenplay that took no less than four writers to concoct, performers more innately sympathetic than the kids infesting this movie, and sharper direction than that offered by Brian Levant (of Snow Dogs infamy). Since Are We There Yet? lacks those requisites, what we're left with is a mess that plays like one long commercial for Planned Parenthood, followed by a series of unbelievable and unmotivated Kodak moments.
If you've seen the trailer, you've pretty much seen the first three-quarters of the movie. Ice Cube plays Nick Persons, the owner of a small (but apparently very lucrative) shop specializing in sports collectibles. He becomes enamored of the beauteous Suzanne Kingston (Nia Long, Alfie), who works for the party-planning outfit across the street. Alas, Suzanne has two children, Lindsey (Aleisha Allen, School of Rock) and Kevin (Philip Bolden, Johnson Family Vacation), and children are anathema to Nick.
"They're like cockroaches, only you can't squish 'em," he remarks to his buddy, Marty (Jay Mohr, S1m0ne) -- and this is before he's even met Suzanne's spawn of hell. These kids, who are obsessed with the idea that their divorced parents are going to get back together and therefore determined to drive off any potential suitors for mom, would have turned Mother Theresa into an ax murderer.
But Nick's libido overrides common sense, and he agrees to ferry the unholy two to Vancouver to meet up with their mother, who's in charge of a big New Year's Eve party. "They're going to eat you alive," flatulence-prone baby sitter Miss Mable (Nichelle Nichols of Star Trek legend) warns him. This warning, of course, is merely the set-up for the "hilarious" spectacle of Nick being subjected to a series of indignities, pummelings and humiliations for 70-odd minutes.
Nick's travails include -- but are hardly limited to -- the destruction of his pride-and-joy SUV, being piled on by the entire security force at an airport, crashing face-first onto the pavement after falling from a moving train, getting the crap punched out of him by a laughable animatronic deer, at least two serious blows to the groin and having to listen to "The Hamster Dance" on his fancy sound system. (Truth be told, the image of Ice Cube grooving to this annoying ditty is one of the movie's few genuinely charming moments.)
The questions that are never raised are the ones that seem inescapable in examining the whole situation: Does Suzanne possess even the most rudimentary parenting skills? Exactly how did this classy woman of Nick's dreams come to produce the Bonnie and Clyde of the middle-school years? And why does it never occur to Nick that there's more wrong here than meets the eye?
For that matter, just how is it that the makers of this movie think it's good, wholesome family fun to show two kids running riot, causing endless property damage, risking life and limb (both for themselves and others), and then suffer no consequences whatsoever?
Even if you can get past the specious morality on display here, it's impossible to get beyond just how awful the movie is on every other level. Whichever screenwriter came up with the concept of the talking Satchel Paige bobble-head needs to have his artistic license revoked -- and do at least five years of hard time. And will someone please tell composer David Newman that he's not Danny Elfman and needs to stop trying to compose like him?
Whatever marginal merits the movie has are contained in Ice Cube's winning personality, but I'm not inclined to look charitably on Mr. Cube here. After all, this monstrosity comes from his own Cubevision Productions, so he has no one to blame but himself. If this January release is any indication of what's to come, then it's going to be a very long winter. Rated PG for language and rude humor.
-- reviewed by Ken Hanke