Are We There Yet?
With one of the most hackneyed expressions in children-based comedy movies "Are We There Yet?" fulfills every low expectation that its urban target audience will bring to their cinema chairs. Nick (Ice Cube - "Barbershop") plays a 35 year-old case of arrested development who makes the mistake of playing foot servant to Suzanne (Nia Long), a divorced woman with two hateful children, in a wayward attempt at starting up a relationship before his bachelor clock runs out. Nick witlessly agrees to shepherd Suzanne’s kids to Vancouver to be with their mother on New Year’s Eve after Suzanne’s ex-husband reneges on taking them. Nick suffers every humiliation of physical abuse and material loss on an extended road-trip that finally brings him what he deserves albeit not what the audience will endorse. This "Johnson’s Family Vacation" rip-off makes that tepid comedy look like a masterpiece by comparison.
After the enormous success of the "Barbershop" franchise audiences are sufficiently clued in to Ice Cube’s self image as a put upon urban guy with an overworked affectation of wearing only one shirt as a constant fashion statement– or lack thereof. This simplistic style of dress is supported in the story by Nick’s ownership of a football and baseball memorabilia store that he operates with his chum Marty (Jay Mohr).
Nick sees himself as a ladies man ready to make all the right moves after he buys a pimped-out black Lincoln Navigator. The purchase of a fancy car, that we gradually witness being destroyed, puts the movie so uncomfortably close to last year’s "Johnson’s Family Vacation" that at times you feel like you’re watching the same movie with one glaring exception. No one in this movie is having any fun.
Nick’s grand plans for many happy hook-ups are dashed when he falls for the dime-a-dozen physical beauty of Suzanne, who runs a banquet event planning business across the street from Nicks shop.
Even though Nick thinks of children as cockroaches that can’t be "squished," he is unable to resist rescuing Suzanne when he discovers her with her car broken down in the pouring rain.
The event sets into motion a pussy-whipped (not desert topping) relationship whereby Nick chauffeurs Suzanne to and from work for many days hoping that she will deign to unlock their singularly beneficial relationship from the "friend zone" that Nick’s friends warn him to abandon.
Before the second act of the movie, the audience is taught a low esteem for Nick, an animosity toward Suzanne’s maladjusted and ill-mannered children, and a stern suspicion for Suzanne as a calculating woman more interested in testing Nick’s loyalty than in the safety of her kids. The four screenwriters responsible for the comic travesty create a narrative monster that’s top heavy with unintended subtext that flips the scale on what an audience can endorse as ‘funny.’
The film’s agonizing second and third acts are a predictably escalating series of child induced horrors strewn across a plane, a train and Nick’s doomed SUV. As Nick’s ignored conscience talks to him through the guise of a CGI-infected Satchel Paige bobblehead doll, little Lindsey and Kevin act out their abandonment issues by persuading a passing trucker that Nick is a child molester who has kidnapped them. Their cruel act almost cost all of them their lives when the trucker decides to run Nick off the road with the help of one of his fellow trucker good buddies.
It’s a relief when "Are We There Yet?" crashes into its final scenes that announce that indeed we have arrived at the close of another dog of a movie by director Brian Levant ("Snow Dogs"). "Are We There Yet?" may not make it onto the top ten worst movies of 2005, but as of now it’s contender for first place.
Rated PG, 91 mins. (D-) (One Star)