2005's "Are We There Yet?
" was an unctuous family comedy, written with the quickwittedness of a seahorse and insulting in its asinine plotting and infuriating character motivations. And yet, even though it was a movie full of bad ideas, the sole saving graces were a few amusing and humorous moments that lightened the misery of the rest of it. A flimsy excuse for a sequel and a pointless remake in one, "Are We Done Yet?" shamelessly desecrates the memory of 1948's classic Cary Grant-starrer "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House" and simultaneously makes "Are We There Yet?
" look like the height of comic brilliance in comparison.
Dusting off a termite-ridden screenplay by Hank Nelken (2001's "Saving Silverman
") that no doubt started off having nothing to do with Ice Cube or his stench-filled franchises, "Are We Done Yet?" is misguided to such a preposterous degree that the viewer is forced to seriously question the psyches of those that worked on it. Did anyone at any time during the shootingan actor, the director, a producer, perhaps even the dolly gripseriously believe with a clear mind and conscience that what he or she was making was a quality product? Or, as is most likely the case, were they all in it for the almighty dollar? Directed by Steve Carr (2005's "Rebound
") with the subtlety of an anvil and the rhythm of a sixth-grade outcast attending his first school dance, "Are We Done Yet?" is every bit as inane as its predecessor. The difference is that it is astoundingly unfunny, too. When a movie's biggest laugh comes from the sight of a pregnant woman bow-leggedly waddling up the stairs following a would-be dramatic scene of marital discord, you know you're in trouble.
Blatant signs that the film didn't culminate from an original screenplay are all over the place. As the picture opens, Nick Persons (Ice Cube) has married girlfriend Suzanne (Nia Long) and invited her and her two bratty children, 13-year-old Lindsey (Aleisha Allen) and 11-year-old Kevin (Philip Daniel Bolden), to live with him in his cramped city apartment. That Suzanne had an idyllic two-story suburban home at the end of "Are We There Yet?
" is never mentioned, nor is her career, which she appears to have totally sacrificed in exchange for staying at home and doing nothing. To make a simplistic story as short as it can get, Nick and family (with twins on the way, natch) buy and move into a spacious fixer-upper in the country and proceed to be terrorized by its rapidly deteriorating state. The more work done to it courtesy of annoying real estate agent/contractor Chuck Mitchell Jr. (John C. McGingley), the worse it gets. At some point, you would expect Nick to flee from the nightmarish place, but apparently he is a glutton for punishment. Either that, or just a really unfortunate victim of a brain-dead script.
To sit and watch "Are We Done Yet?" is to shake one's head in disbelief at what gets greenlit by today's top studios. As Nick Persons, Ice Cube (2005's xXx: State of the Union
") waves his arms around, scowls his brow, talks with his mouth full, falls through roofs, and generally embarrasses all traces of credibility. Cube's character isn't likable, either; at one point, his ignorance shines through when he tells a family of friendly construction workers that they are fat. Nia Long (2007's "Premonition
"), a pro at getting wasted in girlfriend and wife roles, has nothing to do but react to Nick's arrogance. Whenever she does receive a cursory moment of solace with Nick, it is usually interrupted by a bat attack, a drill, or any number of other wildlife and electrical equipment.
As kids Lindsey and Kevin, Aleisha Allen (2003's "School of Rock
") and Philip Daniel Bolden (2006's "How to Eat Fried Worms
") are barely there at all; their lead roles have been downgraded to superfluous side parts. And as the eager, overachieving Chuck Mitchell Jr., who invades the Persons' lives with promises of the house becoming a dream home, John C. McGinley (2007's "Wild Hogs
") wears out his stay with an irritating character that mimics fingernails on a blackboard. McGinley somewhat salvages his participation in a treacly but well-acted late scene where a secret is revealed that will surprise no one but the most gullible of viewers, but it's too little and far too late.
Tedious scene piles upon tedious scene as "Are We Done Yet?" lurches to a warped feel-good ending that suggests Lindsey and Kevin still have no respect for Nick as a friend or father figure. In the interim, animals talk and make animated human facial expressions, property is destroyed, the blind are offensively portrayed as useless imbeciles, a butt crack gets front-and-center attention by the camera, and the actors show up and nine times out of ten look as if they haven't been told what they are shooting. Hopelessly dumb, without value, and lacking direction, the film's only speck of truth comes from its harbinger-of-doom title. Grammatically incorrect though it is, "Are We Done Yet?" is precisely what audiences will be pleading by the ten-minute mark.