There are good movies, there are bad movies, and then there are movies that leave virtually no impression whatsoever. Are We Done Yet? falls into the third category. I saw the movie on Monday night and I still have to rely heavily on my notes because the film was so very unmemorable. Are We Done Yet? is both a sequel and a remake: the main characters from Are We There Yet? return a year later in a storyline adapted from the 1948 film Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (and unofficially, The Money Pit). Ice Cube plays the Cary Grant role ... that's a sentence I never thought I would write.
Ice Cube's character from the first film, Nick Persons, has married his sweetheart Suzanne (Nia Long) and is assuming the role of stepdad towards her two children, Lindsey and Kevin. Lindsey is 13 and, believe it or not, Nick is concerned that she's wearing skimpy clothing and too much makeup, and spending too much time at the mall. And he thinks Kevin spends too much time indoors and needs to do male bonding things like fishing. After Suzanne announces she's pregnant with twins, it's time to leave the overcrowded condo for a house out in the country where the kids can thrive and Nick can work on his new sports magazine. (Suzanne apparently has no career that can't be discontinued.) Nick buys a gorgeous old house that starts to fall apart even before the sale is complete. Real-estate agent/contractor/midwife Chuck (John C. McGinley) agrees to help, but Nick is growing annoyed at the level of repairs needed as well as the intrusiveness of Chuck. Will the new house cause the family to fall apart, too? Will the audience please wake up now?
One of the biggest difficulties with this film is that you don't identify with the main characters, even if you have had to deal with a major home renovation and are feeling their pain as the gorgeous old house is ripped apart. Nick is a real jerk and it's hard to empathize with him. He yells at the kids, he yells at Chuck, and he's so dumb he doesn't even get the house inspected before he buys it. He's supposed to be publishing a magazine, which is the height of implausibility. Nick is a disaster magnet and we are just supposed to laugh at him on that level, as he falls through the roof, or has food flung on him multiple times, or has objects plummet onto his head. I like physical humor and slapstick, but I can only laugh at a man falling through a roof so many times. However, the audience did identify with Nick in one scene, and applauded when he slapped Chuck's hand away from pregnant Suzanne's belly. You can't identify with Suzanne because she has almost no character whatsoever -- she's just The Pregnant Wife who fusses at Nick or exclaims sweetly over the babies kicking.
McGinley is much funnier as Chuck, who wears a number of hats (figuratively and literally), but somehow seems slightly miscast as someone who is supposed to inspire jealousy in Nick for spending too much time with his wife. Also, the animals are amusing. You can't go wrong with a raccoon or bats, and the quick gag with the chipmunk made me laugh harder than anything else in the film. The blind plumbers and the race-walking scene also entertained the audience. But too many of the gags fall flat: why would you play the Deliverance music during a fishing scene without any payoff? Do we need yet another attempt at a humorous childbirth sequence in film, in which the mom-to-be cusses out the men in the room while the daddy faints from shock? And hey, there's even a contractor butt-crack joke thrown in for good measure. We've seen all these jokes handled in better ways in funnier movies. You could watch the opening and closing credits, which are done in a cute animated style, and get the entire scope of the storyline plus a better level of entertainment, in under five minutes.
In fact, the only part of the movie that seriously caught my interest was before and during the opening credits -- after the Columbia logo, I was surprised to see an updated logo for the long-departed RKO Pictures. And the credits included "An RKO Pictures Production." Apparently the company is still around and holds sequel/remake rights to all RKO productions, such as Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. When a production-company logo is the high point of a moviegoing experience, you know you're in trouble. Are We Done Yet? was directed by Steve Carr, whose credits include Daddy Day Care and Dr. Doolittle 2, and was adapted by Hank Nelken, who cowrote Saving Silverman, one of the few Jack Black movies I can't stand due to its nasty attitude toward women.
A truly awful movie at least provides the enjoyment of laughing at the horrible dialogue or muttering witty comments at your neighbor. You can have a lot of fun at an outrageously bad film, or at least in ranting about it afterwards. But Are We Done Yet? isn't even bad enough to be fun. It lies there like the housewarming gifts of dead sturgeon that are another lame attempt at humor in the film, smelling slightly fishy but not yet starting to stink. I wanted to laugh, but most of the jokes simply weren't funny. The audience at the preview screening I attended didn't laugh very often either. Are We Done Yet? has no surprises, nothing original -- it's all been done before.