The one positive thing I can say about “Are We There Yet?,” the 2005 family comedy in which Ice Cube is harassed by bratty kids, is that it came out in 2005 and I haven’t had to think about it since then. It exists only in the past, where it can’t hurt us.
So why the F-bomb is there now a sequel, called “Are We Done Yet?”? And why is it a remake of a perfectly good 1948 Cary Grant/Myrna Loy movie called “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House”? Who approved this? Who wanted this? Who will see this? Ice Cube’s legions of under-10 fans? People who love Cary Grant but always felt he should have been a little bit less expressive, a little bit more like a bumbling, thuggish bear? People who have sustained massive head injuries?
Mr. Cube reprises his role as Nick Persons, a Portland man who, after the events chronicled in “Are We There Yet?,” for some reason married Suzanne (Nia Long) and adopted her two dreadful children, 13-year-old Lindsey (Aleisha Allen) and less-than-13-year-old Kevin (Philip Bolden). They’ve been living in Nick’s cramped apartment, but now Suzanne is pregnant, and it’s time to buy a real house.
They find a beautiful old home out in the country and are charmed by the shmoozy realtor, Chuck (John C. McGinley, never more irritating), who convinces them of its merits. No sooner do they move in, however, than things start to fall apart. Turns out the house needs massive repairs, which would have been spotted if Nick had hired an inspector. Even without that, don’t you have legal recourses when you buy a seemingly OK house that turns out to be rotting from the inside, the way they have “lemon laws” for cars?
It doesn’t matter! Nick hires the local contractor, who also turns out to be Chuck. (Chuck is also a city inspector and a licensed midwife.) (And that’s not a joke. He really is.) Chuck brings in a team of baffling sub-characters to assist on the job, including some blind plumbers (WTF?) and a family of obese Hawaiians whose expertise lies in repairing dry rot.
Oh, dry rot. That reminds me of one of the many stupid quirks in the film’s dialogue. When somebody says something surprising to Nick, he’ll repeat the thing back to them but replace the second part of it with “what?!” For example: “You’ve got dry rot.” “Dry what?!” Also (as Chuck leans close to Suzanne’s pregnant belly): “I’m a baby whisperer.” “A baby what?!” Hey Nick, you’re a jackass. (A jack-what?!)
The dialogue also includes a lot of lines that are broad, obvious set-ups for disaster, the kind where as soon as you hear it, you know exactly what’s going to happen next. For example: The chandelier falls onto the dinner table, causing Lindsey to say, “At least the table is strong!” Instantly, of course, the table collapses. Later: “Isn’t it great to have the place to ourselves?,” followed immediately by pesky Chuck pulling up in the driveway. Also, while Nick takes the kids for a walk in the woods: “There’s nothing to be afraid of,” whereupon Nick sees a deer and is terrified. The deer’s eyes even bug out.
And that reminds me of two other bizarre animal-related incidents. First, after Nick’s pursuit of a raccoon causes him to fall off the roof (one of two times he falls off the roof in this movie), the raccoon looks down at Nick and says, “Sucker!” Later, when Nick falls into the pond and comes face to face with a huge fish, Nick screams, and so does the fish. Yes, the raccoon talks, and yes, the fish screams. What are we to make of this? Every other element of the film, while improbable, unrealistic, and frustratingly predictable, at least seems to occur in the real world (albeit a world in which the laws of gravity are not diligently enforced). So why the screaming fish and the talking raccoon and the bug-eyed deer?
I’ll tell you why: Because this movie is desperate. Its story is paper-thin (guy buys house; repairs drive guy insane), and so screenwriter Hank Nelken (“Saving Silverman”) and director Steve Carr (“Rebound,” “Daddy Day Care”) are forced into panic mode. They have to fill 90 minutes! They have to make Nick run around frantically and trip over things and get things stuck to him and have bats in the chimney and get into a fight with a guy who knows capoeira! When you’re desperate to make a comedy yet have no funny ideas to put in it, all you can do is throw everything at the wall and hope some of it sticks.
Almost none of it does. I chuckled twice during the movie, at two brief gags that were genuinely surprising and funny. The rest is a grotesque mass of comedy gone wrong. Some characters behave without motivation (I’m not sure why Suzanne gets mad at Nick and moves out; it’s not HIS fault the repair work is taking so long); others don’t need to be in the film at all (young Kevin gets about 90 seconds of screen time). When Suzanne goes into labor and Chuck the midwife’s car won’t start, he doesn’t call a cab or ask a friend for a ride or borrow a neighbor’s bicycle; he speed-walks. Why? Because he mentioned earlier that he was on the U.S. speed-walking team in the 1994 Goodwill Games, and it’s “funny” to see that fact come into play later in the movie.
Do you see what I’m talking about here? This is a stupid, unfunny movie made — I have to assume — by stupid, unfunny people. I’ve never even seen the old Cary Grant version, and yet I know that even if it was the worst film of 1948, it’s still 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times better than “Are We Done Yet?”
F (1 hr., 32 min.; )