Nick (Ice Cube) is a successful sports memorabilia shop owner and an undeterred ladies' man. When Suzanne (Nia Long) sparks his fancy, Nick moves in for the kill, only to find her two children, Lindsey (Aleisha Allen) and Kevin (Philip Bolden), are fiercely protective of their mother. Offering to take her kids on a trip to Canada when Suzanne's work plans abruptly change, Nick finds it will take planes, trains, and automobiles to make it up north. Complicating the journey is the fact that these two kids will stop at nothing to prevent the over-blinged playa from successfully completing this act of goodwill to impress Suzanne.
The director of "Are We There Yet?" (IMDb listing) is Brian Levant. Let's run down his filmography, shall we? "The Flintstones," "Leave It to Beaver," "Snow Dogs," "Problem Child 2," "Beethoven," and "Jingle All The Way." That's not the kind of artistic line-up that could even remotely instill confidence in the viewer, so it's no bombshell that "Are We There Yet?" is an unforgiving stinker from the first frame to the last. It's classic Levant.
More troubling than giving Levant the keys to another family film is watching the slow neutering of Ice Cube. The rap star, the man who once gave the world a ditty called "Fuck Tha Police," is stuck in this film playing second fiddle to Bolden and Allen, two of the worst and most aggressively polished child actors I've seen. This is not the Cube we love from the "Friday" movies or his CDs. This is a greedy Cube who wants to coldly broaden his audience by making a safely simplistic and excruciatingly predictable (mostly comedically, but narratively too) kids film, thinking it won't hurt anybody. Mr. Cube, it hurts me to see you this pathetic.
Levant and Cube leave no bathroom joke or urban film staple untouched. We have the farting nanny (played by Nichelle "Uhura" Nichols), Nick on the receiving end of several hits to the groin, Kevin urinating on an old woman, Nick tempting a Chinese auto mechanic (complete with exaggerated accent) with a Yao Ming basketball card, and Kevin puking all over Nick's fully pimped-out car after a losing battle with sweets. There's also a very thick and rip-offish "Home Alone" feel to the slapstick, which borders on truly unpleasant extreme violence. And to top it all off? "Are We There Yet?" uses asthma for comedic effect. I'm sure that must break a law somewhere.
Levant tries to toss in a little sympathy for these devil children by making them a product of a deadbeat dad. Too bad he forgets to appropriately set up the sequence where the kids find out their father has moved on without them, because it results in cheers and laughs to see these horrible tykes finally get their retribution for being such obnoxious monsters, the exact opposite of Levant's desire for tears, pouting, and sniffles. If I were their father, I would've left too. These kids are Satan incarnate.
For about 90 minutes, "Are We There Yet?" rambles on with its cornucopia of pratfalls and stupidity until it finally reaches a conclusion that's insultingly safe and idyllic, but keeps in line with the bizarre vision Levant and Cube have for this film. Another tired, offensive entry into the family film sweepstakes, "Are We There Yet?" is an appalling experience that no adult (or kid for that matter) should be subjected to. On the plus side, it makes for great birth control.
Filmfodder Grade: F