"Are we done yet?" Good question: It's one you'll be asking yourself 15 minutes into this tiresome family comedy, a remake of the classic MR. BLANDINGS BUILDS HIS DREAMHOUSE that doubles as sequel to the even more tedious 2005 Ice Cube vehicle ARE WE THERE YET?
It's been a year since that seemingly interminable road trip finally came to an end; Nick Persons (Ice Cube) and the lovely Suzanne (Nia Long) are now married and living in Nick's small, city apartment with Suzanne's two kids, 13-year-old Lindsey Allen (helium-voiced Aleisha Allen) and her asthmatic younger brother, Kevin (Philip Bolden). Nick has sold his share of the sports memorabilia store he co-owned with his friend Hank, and is now working hard on launching his own sports magazine. The debut issue, he hopes, will feature an interview with Magic Johnson. But finding a moment's peace in his overcrowded apartment is close to impossible, and when Suzanne announces that she's pregnant — with twins, it turns out — Nick realizes that it's time to movie to a much bigger place. What at first seems like a dream house: a 19th-century, fivfe-bedroom, fdour-bath architectural jewel in bucolic Newberg County that, local real-estate agent Chuck Mitchell (John C. McGinley) assures him, is a rare find. But its beauty turns out be skin deep: The plasterboard hides dry rot, the electrical system is worn, the pipes are clogged and termites and hostile raccoons come and go as they please. Nick is, however, so eager to move his new family into their very first real home that he impulsively agrees to buy without bothering to hire an engineer. Within days, Nick realizes that Chuck wasn't kidding when he called the house a "fixer-upper," and he's now completely Chuck's mercy: Chuck isn't just the local real-estate agent, he's also the only available contractor and the ousing inspector who threatens to condemn the crumbling firetrap when Nick tries to hire outside help (and yet somehow Chuck's meant to be a good guy). Nick has no choice but to play ball when Chuck rips off the roof, tears up the floor, pulls down the walls and cuts off the water, turning Nick's dream home into a hell house.
Apparently there's a lesson to be learned here about knowing the difference between a house and a home — a lesson that comes courtesy of Chuck, a walking conflict of interest who really ought to have every license revoked — but anyone whose endured a nightmare renovation under the supervision of an unscrupulous contractor will have little patience for the film's cheap platitudes. Ice Cube and Long have a nice chemistry, though Suzanne seems oddly oblivious to all the mayhem around her and cruelly unsympathetic to Nick's frustration, but the film desperately needs a stronger script; one with a few funny jokes would be nice. Instead what we get is an incessant score that punctuates every pratfall and clues the audience in to what's meant to be funny. leave a comment --Ken Fox