Even the tagline to Are We There Yet? is wrong. Now that may be a first. Throughout the film we are constantly reminded that Nick and the woman he hopes to date by driving her kids from Portland to Vancouver, Suzanne, are not boyfriend and girlfriend. Consider this error foreshadowing to the rest of the film.
Are We There Yet? is a jumbled mess of recycled ideas, bad slapstick, and just plain ideas gone wrong. The number of real laughs can be counted on one hand, never a good sign for a comedy that really thinks it’s funny.
It’s hardly the fault of Ice Cube, who does all he can with the weak material. In the film he plays Nick Persons, owner of a sports memorabilia store. Suzanne Kingston (Long), recently divorced and the mother of two minions, Lindsey (Allen) and Kevin (Bolden), has just started working across the street from him. Upon seeing her for the first time, Nick truly believes it is love at first sight…at least for him.
Nick has never been a fan of children, and upon seeing that Suzanne has children he is immediately turned off. And rightfully so, the children terrorize every new man that Suzanne brings home because they think their mom and dad should still be together. Nick and Suzanne wind up being good friends, but Nick wants more. He drives Suzanne to work and helps her with errands, all in the hope that he can prove himself to be a worthy boyfriend.
The ultimate challenge arises when Suzanne has to go to Vancouver for work. The kids were supposed to stay with their dad, but he has called in sick. With no way to get them to Vancouver with her, Nick volunteers to bring the kids to the airport to make sure they take off safely.
After a mishap with airport security, the bunch tries the train route. Another mishap occurs, and Nick is forced to drive the two demons in his new Lincoln Navigator the 350 miles to Vancouver.
From here the trailer can take over. We get every road trip-style cliche in the book, and if I were Nick I would have dumped these two brats on the side of the road after about five miles. These are two undisciplined, completely unlikable children, and I usually like kids. The film wants us to root for them because they want to see their divorced dad, but I was mostly rooting for them to vanish into thin air.
The film takes an even bigger turn for the worse when a trucker, Al (Gainey), is pulled into the story because Lindsey has convinced him through a sign in the window that Nick has kidnapped her and Kevin. This development leads to a stunningly contrite, empty, and utterly predictable conclusion. I wanted to puke in my shoes.
The performances range from serviceable to downright sad. Ice Cube, who is clearly trying to make a Eddie Murphy-style turn to family fare, does all he can to salvage this mess. He is a very likable personality and overall turns in the best performance in the film. Nia Long is laughably over-the-top as the whiny Suzanne, and by the end of the film I was wondering why Nick was interested in her at all. The two kids, Aleisha Allen and Philip Golden, are adequate actors, but the characters written for them are completely unlikable. Jay Mohr phones in a performance as Nick’s sidekick at the memorabilia store, and character actors M.C. Gainey is appropriately over-the-top as the bizarre trucker.
Director Brian Levant and the four (yes, four) screenwriters introduce nothing new or very entertaining for that matter. That it took four writers to come up with this dreck is beyond pathetic.
It’s never too early to start that “Worst of 2005” list, and Are We There Yet? is already a worthy contender. Avoid taking the kids to this in the hopes that they will enjoy it. Better yet, just cross this film off altogether.
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Length: 90 Minutes
Rating: PG for language and rude humor.
Theatrical Release: January 21, 2005
Directed by: Brian Levant
Written by: Steven Gary Banks & Claudia Grazioso & J. David Stern & David N. Weiss.
Cast: Ice Cube, Nia Long, Aleisha Allen, Philip Bolden, Jay Mohr, M.C. Gainey