Title: Are we there yet?
Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Family
Play time: 1h 35min
Director: Brian Levant
Screenwriters: Steven Gary Banks, Claudia Grazioso
Starring: Ice Cube, Nia Long, Aleisha Allen
It’s not so much that Brian Levant’s Are We There Yet? is bad, as that it is simply not a movie. There is nothing here that we would associate with cinema — no characters, no human dialogue, no aesthetic, nothing at all that can even begin to generate interest. The obvious joke is asking “is it over yet?” and let me assure you that that little witticism is infinitely more amusing than anything you will find in the “film.”
I wondered, as I was watching, what on earth compelled me to go see it. Surely I could have chosen another film to review, something else to do with my evening. I have a certain obligation to keep up with the slate of current releases, true, but I could easily have skipped this particular January offering. As I pondered these things, the Satchel Paige bobblehead doll parked on the dashboard of our protagonist’s pimped-out SUV up and started talking, and Nick Persons (Ice Cube) started talking back. This banter continues throughout the film, and neither Levant nor any of the four screenwriters ever bother to frame his as a fancy of Nick’s imagination — for all we know, there is actually a talking bobblehead doll on the dashboard of his car, or he is schizophrenic.
The plot concerns Nick’s attempts to woo an attractive single mom (Nia Long) by volunteering to transport her two insufferable children to Vancouver from Oregon when her job strands her up there for New Year’s Eve. My first thought was that the tykes are played by maybe the most obnoxious child stars in the business, but then I realized that Aleisha Allen and Philip Bolden were stuck with a script that made it impossible for them to be anything but obnoxious. They are petty, and loud, and evil, and not only do we not blame Nick for wanting to leave them by the side of the road, but we don’t believe him when, at the end of the film, he starts making impassioned speeches about how much he has enjoyed their time together.
The two things I learned from Are We There Yet? are that a) all bachelors are depressed and lonely, and b) friendship means nothing unless there is sex at the end of the tunnel. If these don’t sound like the best lessons to convey to your children, I don’t blame you, and would urge you to stay away from this nonsense. It does not help a movie as devoid of cinematic virtues as this one is to also be morally reprehensible, but here we are.
If you haven’t realized by now, the film is not funny. I think that Ice Cube is a funny guy, and he’s brought attitude and personality to movies like Three Kings and Ghosts of Mars, but here he is by turns frozen, desperate and lost. His best moment is his utter look of bewilderment when he winds up chasing a freight train on horseback, which I could not help but think symbolized the actor’s feelings about being stranded in this disaster. The jokes predictably involve several varieties of bodily fluids, though occasionally a horrific ethnic stereotype is thrown in for the sake of variety.
I dunno. I have so much trouble imagining anyone enjoying this “movie,” that I have few qualms about issuing an unequivocal plea to stay the hell away from it. There is simply nothing here.