Are We There Yet?

2005, Movie, PG, 96 mins

Review

ARE WE THERE YET?
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Aimed squarely at youngsters for whom anything to do with flatulence, urination or vomiting represents the height of hilarity, this repetitive, predictable comedy will reduce their accompanying adults to whimpering, "Is it over yet?" Nick Persons (Ice Cube), the Portland-based owner of an upscale sports memorabilia store, has his eye on foxy Suzanne Kingston (Nia Long), who works at the party-planning business across the street. That Nick hates children and Suzanne is the divorced mother of 8-year-old Kevin (Philip Daniel Bolden, a veteran of the similarly themed JOHNSON FAMILY VACATION) and his slightly older sister, Lindsey (Aleisha Allen), is a problem even before he discovers that they're überbrats whose antics would test the patience of St. Nicholas himself. Suzanne, unwilling to get involved with a man who isn't interested in her kids, relegates Nick to the dreaded "friend zone." But when she's caught between working a swanky New Year's Eve party in Vancouver and her feckless ex-husband's refusal to take his own children for the night, she accepts Nick's offer to pick them up at home and deliver them to her hotel. The plan is to fly, but Kevin slips a corkscrew into Nick's pocket at the airport and gets him in hot water with security. The little pranksters also sabotage Plan B, taking a train. So Nick is left with no option but to drive 350 miles in his brand-spanking-new, fully loaded Lincoln Navigator. Within a matter of hours they've soiled the interior, messed with his sound system and convinced a concerned trucker (M.C. Gainey) that they're the victims of a kidnapper. Before the inevitable happy ending, the car has been reduced to a burning heap of stinking slag and, against all odds and reason, Nick and the kids have come to love each other. Yeah, right. The services of two screenwriting teams were required to write the film's single quotable line, Cube's disgusted observation that kids are "like cockroaches, 'cept you can't squish 'em," concoct a series of dangerous-driving gags and devise a "cute" scene in which 11-year-old Lindsey delivers a rump-shaking rendition of Aretha Franklin's frankly carnal "R-E-S-P-E-C-T." Cube is genuinely charming, but even he can't elevate the proceedings above the coarse sensibilities of Brian Levant, whose niche is directing boorish, noisy children's pictures like PROBLEM CHILD 2 (1991), BEETHOVEN (1992), both live-action FLINTSTONES features and SNOW DOGS (2002). leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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