Are We There Yet?
When an avowed bachelor offers to take a road trip with a 7-year old and 11-year old in the hopes of winning the heart of their mother, hilarity ensues. Really, I promise! The merriment is practically baked-right in--if you happen to be 7-years old. Or maybe 11.
Smooth-talking operator Nick Persons (Ice Cube) is trying to land a date with Suzanne Kingston (Nia Long), a young, attractive single mom. We know he's smooth from the moment he strides onto the screen, flashing his cocky smile, his blingage, and his playa' attitude. Although Nick has sworn to never date a woman with children, Suzanne is special. We know she's special because she gets Nick to stop his car in the rain for her. That's true love right there because Nick loves his car more than anything else. But when Suzanne, miserable on a business trip in Vancouver, wants her kids to visit her, Nick gamely offers to make her wish come true (and his own in the process) by driving the children himself from Oregon to Canada. What Nick doesn't know is that 7-year old Kevin (Philip Daniel Bolden) and his sister, 11-year old Lindsey (Aleisha Allen) think that no man is good enough for their mom and they will do everything they can to make the trip a nightmare for him. In spite of their best efforts to sabotage their journey, wreck Nick's car, and send him packing, both Lindsey and Kevin realize that Nick just may be the father they've been hoping for. And Nick realizes that maybe, just maybe, he could be a family man after all. But you saw that one coming, right?
Are We There Yet? gives usually hard-as-nails Ice Cube a chance to display his softer, comedic side, which he does to great effect. He's truly charming and when he turns on his million-watt smile, he's absolutely adorable. Plus, he's great with the kids! Who knew? Nia Long's single mother is (for a change) not down on her luck, but she isn't given much to do other than stand around looking worried. Funnyman Jay Mohr is also sadly underused as the token-white guy/best friend who plays basketball with the guys and gets to say things like, ''You've got to dump her because you're stuck in the Friend Zone!'' Actress Nichelle Nichols--better known as Lt. Cmdr. Uhura on the original Star Trek--makes a hilarious cameo as Long's babysitter, who may have taken one too many trips to Vegas. As for the youngest members of the cast, Bolden (Johnson Family Vacation) and Allen (School of Rock) don't have a lot to do other than serve as composites of every annoying child you've ever met; the picky kid who won't eat orange food, the sickly kid who's always looking for his inhaler, the infuriating smart-mouth who doesn't know when to shut up, the crybaby, etc. etc. etc. All these traits packed into only two children can be enough to make you weep. Good thing Saturday Night Live alum Tracy Morgan is there to give advice as the voice of the bobble-headed dashboard doll, fashioned after legendary baseball star, Satchell Paige. Paige gets to serve as a sort of all-knowing sage who offers pithy observations as the action unfolds.
They say it's hard to work with animals and children and since the bulk of this film involves only Ice Cube and the two kids, director Brian Levant (Snow Dogs) had his work cut out for him. Add to that the fact that there are a couple of actual animal scenes in the film and you have to admire Levant's courage. To his credit, Levant is able to create a fast, frenetic film, full of wacky adventures and visual set-pieces that do add up to a satisfying payoff at the end. Like the car trip in the film, however, sometimes the journey is more important than the destination. Levant's broad strokes might be more suited to the children in the audience rather than the adults who are there with them. Although much has been made of Ice Cube playing ''against type'' in this mainstream family comedy, chances are that the kids in the audience will have no idea what Ice Cube's type is, let alone whether he's playing against it or not. I mean really, how many 8-year olds will have seen Boyz 'N the Hood? Nevertheless, parents can rest easy knowing that their children are in pretty good hands for 89 minutes.
Anyone who's ever been in a car for longer than 20 minutes will relate to Are We There Yet? Whether you relate in a good way or a bad way just might depend on how old you are. And whether or not you remembered to go to the bathroom first.