Film — Are We There Yet? (PG)

Are We There Yet? (PG)

by Amy Diaz

Ice Cube completes his transformation from angry member of N.W.A. to the X-er Bill Cosby by working with kids in Are We There Yet?

And, as if to drive home the point, in one early scene in the movie Cube guesses at the names of his two future wards: “Rudy and Theo?” Yes, and your lawyer wife Claire is waiting for you back at the brownstone.

Nick (Ice Cube) is the owner of a sports collectibles store and a fan of the ladies. What he’s not so fond of are children — he makes a last-minute decision not to hit on the hot chick working across the street from him when he realizes that she comes with a pair of rug-rats. He resists, holds back, looks the other way — for about five minutes before he can not help but hit on Suzanne (Nia Long). He helps her with her broken-down car and offers to drive her to work while it’s being fixed. The situation makes him a little uneasy — he’s worried about being stuck in the “friend zone” — but he feels each good deed brings him closer to boyfriend status.

However, working against his efforts are Suzanne’s two children, the 11-year-old-ish Lindsey (Aleisha Allen) and the 8-year-old-ish Kevin (Philip Daniel Bolden). Clinging desperately to the hope that their parents will reunite, they’ve run a campaign to scare off all of their mom’s potential boyfriends. So far, it’s worked but — perhaps because they haven’t really dated yet — they don’t get a crack at Nick until he chumpishly offers to bring the kids from Portland to Vancouver for Suzanne when her ex bails on taking them for the weekend.

As with any good travel movie, the trip quickly descends from the humane promise of a speedy airplane ride to a far more laborious trek that will eventually involve every form of transportation imaginable. At every chance, the kids look for ways to sabotage Nick’s efforts (getting themselves tossed from the airport and causing the train to leave without them but with their luggage). And, because Nick’s no more thrilled to be with them than they are with him, the expected amount of arguing and back-pranking occurs as the group painfully traverses the relatively short distance.

Ice Cube is a legitimately good actor and, as evident in the first Barbershop movie, he’s even good with the squishy emotional stuff. There is something in his tough-guy-turned-softie image that makes him a natural for working with kids. Just maybe not these kids.

Are We There Yet? is as exhausting as the title implies. The children are relentless in their ham-fisted cute naughtiness. Oh, they’ve locked Nick out of his brand-new car and now they’re trying to drive it. Hmm, I wonder if they’ll run it into something? Is it possible they’ll work a hard-object-to-the-groin bit in the mix?

The movie tastes like stale sitcom covered with moldy slapstick. Ice Cube, if you want to sell pudding pops, there are easier ways than this.

- Amy Diaz

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