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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Are We There Yet? (2005)

"They're gonna chew you up and spit you out, young man."
- Miss Mable (Nichelle Nichols)

Review By: Kevin Clemons   
Published: June 03, 2005

Stars: Ice Cube, Nia Long, Jay Mohr
Other Stars: Tracy Morgan, Philip Bolden, Aleisha Allen
Director: Brian Levant

Manufacturer: DVDL
MPAA Rating: PG for language and rude humor
Run Time: 01h:35m:43s
Release Date: May 24, 2005
UPC: 043396069756
Genre: family

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ FA-B+ C

DVD Review

There seems to be a general preconception that children tormenting adults is fun no matter how painful or disturbing the manner. My fellow reviewer Joel Cunningham proposed in his review of Undertow the opposite of these cheery films in which the role of child and adult would be reversed and suggested how potentially disturbing that could be. I will add another interesting idea: how about a film where the parents, bystanders, boyfriend or criminal each learn early in the film that the children just don't like them and are inherently, ruthlessly sinister. Sure, it would make for a shorter film, but then we would be spared from such concepts as Problem Child, Home Alone, and now this, Are We There Yet? I, for one, am willing to make that sacrifice.

Ice Cube (yes, the rap revolutionary is now fronting kid pictures) stars as Nick, who appears to have the perfect life as a successful sports memorabilia guy in Portland, Oregon. He meets Suzanne (Long), a successful party planner, and Nick is immediately smitten. The only problem for him are Suzanne's two children, Kevin (Bolden) and Lindsey (Allen), who are against any man in their mom's life that is not their estranged father, whom they believe will some day return. This is bad for Nick, as, as much as the children don't like him, he hates all children and will vocalize his thoughts to anyone willing to listen.

When Nick finds Suzanne on the side of the road after her car has broken down, he begins to be her personal driver while her vehicle is being fixed. As things unfold in a nifty little montage we see Nick also running errands for Suzanne in an effort to win her over. It doesn't work, however, because Suzanne knows of Nick's aversion to children, and this effectively kills any chance of a relationship. When Suzanne must head up to Vancouver on business, Nick offers to fly with the kids to meet her in an effort to look like the consummate father figure. This of course backfires as the flight turns into a long road trip in Nick's prize SUV that will invariably be totaled by the time the credits roll.

The biggest problem with Are We There Yet? is that the kids, who I am assuming should be likable, are downright despicable. I am not sure when placing a corkscrew on someone as they enter through airport security or holding up a handwritten sign that says "Help Us" while driving down the road became good-natured kid stuff, but I assume I just missed the memo. This is all too bad as Are We There Yet? tries to be a good film, or at very least one with heart. There are semi-serious conversations about Kevin and Lindsey's inability to see any man other than their father at their mother's side, and one potentially poignant moment in which the kids face the realization that their father has remarried and has a new child that feel like they should hit harder than they do. Maybe it is difficult because we don't really care what the kids feel after seeing them torment Nick to levels that would test the patience of a saint.

Directed by Brian Levant (of Jingle All the Way, Flintstones, and Snow Dogs shame, er, fame) eschews any sort of real emotion for more and more torment as eventually the film becomes less about whether or not the kids and Nick will make it Vancouver but rather whether Nick can stand not to kill them. There is very little that can be considered redeeming here aside from the relationship between Ice Cube and Nia Long. I kept finding myself wishing that the film would focus around the pair, who show incredible chemistry, and their romance rather than repeated scenes of the children vomiting on Nick, hurting him, and generally endangering his life. Still, the film has a very easy style and look to it, though even at a scant hour and a half running length it still feels long, and poor pacing is a consistent problem.

In the end, it may have simply been a losing battle for Levant as the script makes it impossible to sympathize with the children, thus negating Nick's desire to bond with them in an effort to impress Suzanne. Still, what do I know, as Are We There Yet? racked up some nice box office and is likely to be a family hit on DVD. I guess seeing children torment and truly try to harm an adult is the new millennium idea of family values.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: F


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer for Are We There Yet? is done nicely with terrific sharpness and detail that really show off the Pacific Northwest. Colors are rich and show no bleeding or grain while I did notice a few slight instances of edge enhancement in the long shots that showcase the scenic Canadian countryside.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Frenchyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is about as average as they come as the center channel does the heavy lifting with adequate results. The surround speakers are used sparingly for music and ambiance but little else.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Chinese, Korean, Thai with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Deleted Scenes
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Brian Levant
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Outtakes
  2. A Tour of Nick's sports memoribilia
Extras Review: The most noteworthy extra offered is a commentary by director Brian Levant. It is a nice track as Levant offers up nearly every bit of information known about the film including casting, locations, and the evolution of the script as the film inched closer to production. It is an entertaining, lighthearted track, but uninteresting at times.

There is also one deleted scene and outtakes that seem stiff and not very funny. There is also a brief tour of the sports memorabilia that litters Nick's shop, a shockingly short "making-of" piece, and finally a storyboard-to-film comparison.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

To be honest, just moments before my girlfriend and I viewed this DVD we had the obligatory discussion about whether or not we would like to have a child. I had said yes, but thanks to Are We There Yet? my answer was a complete turnaround as the end credits hit the screen. This is a film that has no real redeeming value aside from a few isolated moments where its adult stars show that they are better than the material.


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