ARE WE THERE YET?
The bachelor owner of a baseball memorabilia store, Nick Persons (Ice Cube) hates children, but when he meets Suzanne (Nia Long), an attractive single mother, he’s willing to make an effort with her children Lindsey (Aleisha Allen), and Kevin (Philip Bolden). Unfortunately, both kids are still hopeful their mother will someday reunite with their father, and in the meantime devote themselves to scaring away any man who shows an interest in Suzanne. When Nick agrees to accompany Lindsey and Kevin on a trip from their home town of Oregon to Vancouver, everything which can go wrong does, leading to multiple delays as well as a chance for Nick to learn what being a parent is all about.
Review by Jake Wilson:
On reflection, Are We There Yet? was a poorly-chosen title for this utterly predictable movie: as the characters make their way down a road travelled many, many times before, the older members of the cinema audience are liable to be transformed into impatient children wriggling in their seats.
Not that the formula in question hasn’t worked in the past. The screenplay by various hands owes a large debt to the ever-dubious brilliance of John Hughes, whose single theme used to be the war between adults and children (in everything from National Lampoon’s Vacation to Home Alone). As a child of the 1980s I longed all the way through for the ruthless cynicism that Hughes used to bring to this topic, before throwing the switch to sentiment in the final reel. Here the ‘family values’ message occupies the foreground from the outset, and Ice Cube’s comic persona is too easy-going for his humiliation to be especially funny.
Indeed, from the point of view of its star (also one of the producers) the film probably exists less for entertainment’s sake than as propaganda aimed at persuading young black men to be responsible fathers. As a result, the tone is slightly complicated by an attempt to appeal to two audiences at once: only the most streetsmart kids are likely to grasp jokes about Nick’s reputation as a ‘playa’, while few adults will be amused by his wisecracking dashboard ornament (actually, even six-year-olds may roll their eyes).
But for the most part, what you see is what you get. Kiddie-farce specialist Brian Levant juggles point-of-view shots and wacky or wistful music cues with a certain dreary aplomb, having evidently ceased to hope for better things from his career. Occasionally a ball is dropped: the subplot about Lindsey and Kevin’s biological father is unconvincingly resolved, and what looks like a build-up to a pie-fight climax (a la The Great Race) dwindles to nothing.
On the plus side, Aleisha Allen makes an endearing miniature diva, and her big scene belting out Respect not only recalls The Blues Brothers but suggests a star vehicle can’t be far away. Some of the slapstick works well, and even the bodily-fluid gags are effective if you like that sort of thing. At the preview I attended, a roadside toilet stop got a bigger reaction than anything else in the movie, prompting a delighted little kid sitting behind me to cry out “The boy pissed on the lady!” Criticism can say little more.
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ARE WE THERE YET? (PG)
CAST: Ice Cube, Nia Long, Aleisha Allen, Philip Bolden, Jay Mohr, M.C. Gainey
PRODUCER: Matt Alvarez, Ice Cube, Dan Kolsrud
DIRECTOR: Brian Levant
SCRIPT: Steven Gary Banks, Claudia Grazioso, J. David Stem, David N. Weiss
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Thomas E. Ackerman
EDITOR: Lawrence Jordan
MUSIC: David Newman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Stephen J. Lineweaver
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony Pictures
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 10, 2005
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Sony Picture Home Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: July 13, 2005