With Steve Carr’s Are We Done Yet? the real question is whether or not Ice Cube’s career is done yet. Certainly whatever edge he had is out the window. That process started, of course, with the original Are We There Yet? (2005), but here Mr. Cube has placed himself in the hands of Steve Carr, whose specialty seems to be to completely transform previously outspoken comedians into cozy, nonthreatening figures suitable for middle-American consumption. Having used this gift on Eddie Murphy with Daddy Day Care (2003) and Martin Lawrence with Rebound (2005), Carr now bestows his emasculatory blessing on Ice Cube. (It’s hard to believe that Carr helmed the 2000 film Next Friday in light of his subsequent goo-fests.)
I will admit that Are We Done Yet? is slightly less dubious than its parent film, but only because it doesn’t consist entirely of watching Nick Persons (Cube) suffer nonstop indignities and injuries at the hands of a pair of obnoxious kids who are apparently supposed to be just too cute for words. Oh, the kids are still here—now they’re Nick’s stepchildren—and they’re still pretty much the poster children for birth control, but the dynamic has changed. Nick is no longer just their stooge; he’s become a generic sitcom dad at the mercy of any and all comers—and most of all at the mercy of his own sitcom stupidity. It ain’t pretty.
Despite a huge title reading, “Based on the motion picture Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House written by Norman Panama and Melvin Frank,” Are We Done Yet? bears almost no resemblance to that 1948 film. OK, so both movies have a couple and their children moving out of a crowded apartment to a big house in the country where the husband is taken for a ride by contractors and subcontractors, but that’s about it. No house—dream or otherwise—is built. Here it’s a matter of refurbishing the improbably huge mansion that Nick unbelievably buys with the proceeds from selling his sports memorabilia store and an advance given him for a sports magazine he’s trying to get started. (As a writer, I want the name of the publishing house backing him so generously!)
None of it makes a lot of sense, and the film’s structure is shakier than the decrepit house itself. One moment Nick needs to get an interview with Magic Johnson, the next he’s trying to come up with questions for the interview at the behest of Johnson’s handlers, only to find he doesn’t have Johnson lined up, but then it appears he seems to have already done an (maybe not the) interview—and so it goes. This is apparently supposed to mirror Cary Grant in the original trying to come up with an advertising slogan for Wham Ham, but it never makes sense and ultimately doesn’t even matter.
My guess is that no one cares about the plot holes, since the whole movie exists merely to pit Nick against nature and the bizarre local real estate agent/local contractor/local building inspector/local midwife Chuck Mitchell (John C. McGinley, TV’s Scrubs) and subcontractors various and sundry (including a group of blind plumbers). In theory, much mirth will ensue from Nick’s encounters with Chuck and with a deer, a raccoon (it even talks), a chipmunk, an owl and a preposterously murderous sturgeon. In practice, what we get is sitcom tedium of the worst kind. There’s not a gag or a plot twist that can’t be predicted.
There’s also the fact that so much of the film is given over to McGinley’s character, Chuck, that Ice Cube begins to feel like a supporting player in his own movie. Worse, Chuck is downright creepy in a stalker kind of way. Moreover, he’s a stalker who manages to bilk thousands and thousands of dollars out of his victim in the bargain! The movie’s last-reel attempt to make the character sympathetic by giving him a secret sorrow, only serves to make him that much more disturbing.
On a purely personal note, Are We Done Yet? demolishes my personal theory that there’s no movie—no matter how good or bad—that can’t be improved by the addition of a monkey or a musical number. While there’s no simian life involved, there is a musical number by Aleisha Allen, and it doesn’t improve matters. Then again, I don’t think a stampede of baboons and production numbers by Busby Berkeley could help this film. Rated PG for some innuendos and mild language.
— reviewed by Ken Hanke