Is it over yet? Please?
Ice Cube’s Are We There Yet? was tough enough to sit through, though unaccountably successful. Thus, we have this doubly unnecessary sequel. It is so creatively bankrupt that it has to teeter not just on the original, which was bad enough, but it has the temerity to call itself in part a remake of the Cary Grant/Myra Loy classic Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. This movie does to that one what dry rot does to wood.
In the first film, Ice Cube played Nick, who was happily single until he saw Suzanne (Nia Long), not only beautiful but, like him, a fan of Satchel Paige. He fell so hard for her that he offered to take her children to Vancouver, which resulted in a series of mishaps that were only slightly less excruciating than the phony sentimentality. Now, Nick, pregnant-with-twins Suzanne, and the kids move out of Nick’s bachelor apartment into a beautiful house in the country that turns out to be falling apart. It will take a village to make it habitable — a very expensive village.
The screenplay is as rickety and jerrybuilt as the fixer-upper Nick moves into, all pratfalls and muckishness. Its lazy contempt for the audience means that we never believe for a moment that Nick, Suzanne, and the kids are in the same movie, much less the same family. There is no sense of connection, not even a consistent sense of character. Nick’s insistent “I can fix that” persona comes and goes, along with his plans to start a magazine. When Suzanne tells him she is pregnant, his reaction is “By who?” (a poor choice for a movie aimed at kids) and then a stiff drink (ditto). Even the lovely Long cannot make Suzanne into anything more than a vague character who urges everyone to be nice all the time. She is so clueless about what is going on with her family that she seems a little creepy. The kids make no contribution (except for another classic pop musical number from School of Rock’s Aleisha Allen). The primary relationship in the movie is between Nick and his Renaissance Man contractor, Chuck (John C. McGinley). The script tries to have it both ways, making him a slick con artist and a warm-hearted guy who just wants to be part of the family, letting any latent humor out of the situation like a slow leak from a tire. The whole movie feels like a slow leak, no chemistry, no energy, as synthetic as masonite painted to look like pine.
Parents should know that this movie has a great deal of comic peril and violence, crashing through floors and falling off roofs. There are comic scuffles and there is some crude jokes. There’s a brief shot of a workman’s bare tush and some potty humor. Nick criticizes his step-daughter’s skimpy clothes and worries that she is getting involved with boys. There are some mild sexual references and a non-explicit on-screen childbirth scene. When Suzanne tells Nick she is pregnant, he asks “by who?” Characters drink, including drinking in response to stress. There is a reference to a sad death. A strength of the movie, particularly in light of the unintended racism (by today’s terms) of “Mr. Blandings,” is the portrayal of diverse characters, thought it engages in some stereotyping and portrays disabilities as humorous.
Families who see this movie should talk about why Nick always wanted Suzanne and the kids to think that he knew how to fix everything. Why did Suzanne feel she had to move out? Families might also like to talk about some of the issues that blended families face.
Families who appreciate this film will enjoy the much better comedies about home renovation, including Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, George Washington Slept Here and The Money Pit. They might also enjoy watching “Extreme Home Makeover” and other shows about home repair and decorating.