by David Cornelius
“Are We There Yet?” is the perfect movie for your children, assuming you hate your children. This film, intended as a family-friendly slapstick comedy, is in fact an ugly, obnoxious, overbearing, idiotic, offensive, horrible affair, the kind of lame-brained effort that actually makes you angry - angry at the characters, angry at the filmmakers, and angry at yourself for bothering to sit through such crap.The film’s problem - its main one, anyway - is that it gives us three wholly unlikable people as its main characters, then asks us not only to like them, but to love them. We cannot. These are characters in need of a good, long, solid, merciless beating. When the script comes around to its obligatory sappy ending, we’re furious; this is not the outcome these idiots deserve. The moral of the film? It’s cool to be an asshole, especially if you’re a kid, because hey, that only makes it cuter.
"The title, of course, refers to the closing credits."
This mess stars Ice Cube, who, between this, the last two “Friday” movies, “All About the Benjamins,” and “Torque,” needs to put a cap in his agent’s ass. Cube plays Nick Persons, a tough guy with an SUV fetish and a serious distaste for children. But he’s hot for Nia Long - hey, who isn’t? - and so, in a series of events impossible to recap here, Nick winds up driving her two kids to Vancouver for New Year’s.
The catch: these two kids are the world’s worst brats. Ignorant to the fact that mom’s ex is the world’s worst dad (he’s bailed on them yet again), they physically assault any suitor that vies for mom’s affections. When we first meet them, they’re dunking mom’s latest date in glue, but not before they get him tripping on all those marbles, ha ha. (It’s as if they have unlimited funds and a vast knowledge of “Home Alone” punchlines.) When we next meet them, they’re kicking Nick in the groin, and that’s just for starters.
Other things the children do: refuse to get on a train (meaning Nick has to jump off before it leaves them behind); refuse to get off a train (meaning Nick has to catch up before they get left behind); locking Nick out of his own car and then driving around like a maniac (meaning Nick has to run around in circles trying not to get run over); convincing a trucker that Nick has kidnapped them (meaning Nick gets attacked - violently - by strangers throughout the picture).
Did I mention that Nick loves his Lincoln Navigator so very, very much, and he is such a neatnik that he covers the seats in plastic before offering the children a ride? The hook to the movie, then, is that the kids will create as much damage to the car as humanly possible, while Ice Cube stands around and acts mildly upset. But not only is this joke astoundingly lame - especially when coupled with the equally moronic plot point that has Nick refusing to tell the mom anything bad that’s happened, for no reason other than it’s supposed to be funny this way - but it’s obnoxious to a breaking point. These are children that are rewarded for their criminal behavior.
Of course I’m taking things a bit too seriously. Hey, it’s only a comedy, just a cartoon, so to speak, so get the stick out of my ass, right? Nah. If “Are We There Yet?” could muster up one single workable laugh, then yes, I might go easy on the story. But with the gags not only being unfunny, but painfully so, then there’s nothing else for the viewer to do that to wonder why these children have not yet been placed in a juvenile detention center of some sort.
(When they finally realize the extent of their actions, they cry out, “We are a lot of trouble! That’s why our daddy doesn’t want to be with us!” And we want to cry back, “Yes! That’s it!! I’d abandon your sorry asses, too, if I could. Who would want to be around a couple of unstoppable criminals? Screw you, kids, I’m outta here!” Of course, this is not the response they actually get in the film; no, it’s here that we’re suddenly supposed to love them and want them to have great lives. Feh.)
As if this were not enough, as if all of this dumbass, gee-let’s-take-bets-on-how-long-it-takes-until-somebody-barfs-all-over-the-car slapstick were not possibly enough to make the film truly unwatchable, in comes the musical number, in which the little girl wails “Respect” at a birthday party. And then there’s the embarrassingly fake “asthma attack” dramatic finish. Oh, and the bits in which Tracy Morgan supplies the voice for a talking Satchel Paige bobblehead, who talks to Nick in fantasy sequences. Plus, we get subtle homophobia, too!
Or maybe not-so-subtle. In the final scene, Long delivers a speech that inexplicably turns the entire thing into a case for heterosexual parenting. (“They need a man!” she declares. No, what they need is a whuppin’, or at least a decent, loving parent who actually knows how to raise children.) But I doubt this was intentional - any film that reads vicious behavior as cute and charming is clearly a few punches short of the free sandwich (whatever that means), and therefore unable to slip unnoticed a political message of any sort. I mean, the darn thing was directed by the guy who made “Snow Dogs,” “Jingle All the Way,” and “Problem Child 2,” while the crack writing team (four were credited, none provided a single usable joke) has a collective resumé that includes “Bring It On Again” and “Rugrats In Paris.” So sly thinking is apparently not a top priority.But even if you take out everything that’s nasty about these people and what they say and do, even if you clean up their acts and somehow make them as lovable as the movie wants them to be, you’re still left with a work of complete ineptitude. Not one gag works the way it should, not one scene clicks the right way. This is a poorly made comedy, a miserable excuse for a film, and a terrible turn for the career of Ice Cube.
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originally posted: 05/24/05 15:04:50