Are We There Yet? Review

Back in 1991 Brian Levant and Ice Cube both made debuts of sorts. Levant helmed his first cinematic feature, Problem Child 2, to almost unanimous critical hatred, whilst Cube first made the switch from rapper to actor with an acclaimed turn in Boyz n the Hood. Critical response meaning very little, Are We There Yet? sees Levant staying put, stylistically speaking, and Cube making the expected move of playing the lead in a slick, unchallenging slice of family entertainment.

Indeed, whilst this may represent an improvement on Problem Child 2 (though this in itself should not be gauged as a great achievement), Are We There Yet? is still chasing the same demographic; there would appear to be little chance of Cube’s fanbase making the crossover as would have been the case with Barbershop, say, or xXx 2 : The Next Level. The opening scene either rips off or pays homage to Home Alone, depending on your viewpoint, and pretty much sets the standard for the ensuing 90 minutes. Cube plays Nick, the owner of a sports collectibles store and a brand new Navigator, the latter of which he spends much of the film using to drive a pair of kids from the U.S. to Canada. The reason for this is their mother (Nia Long) and Are We There Yet? can be read as a love story played twice over – first of all Nick has to woo the mother, and then the kids, both of whom were responsible for the Home Alone antics on a previous suitor.

Of course, Nick hates the kids right back which does allow Cube to retain some of his patented bad attitude (though watching this effort it’s easy to forget that once upon a time he was in NWA), but then he still has to cope with the usual smart arse comments which come part and parcel with Hollywood moppets, as well as the requisite piss and puke gags. Indeed, it’s hard not to side with Nick’s general impatience as they continually mug to the camera and, at one point, even indulge in a karaoke version of Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect’. (It comes as no surprise to learn from Levant’s commentary that the eight year old already has already had a prolific career in American commercials.) The problem is that by Are We There Yet?’s end he’s also gotten in on the act and we watch with a certain bemusement as Cube rides a horse, fights a deer and offers the kids sentimental life lessons (on their absent father: “He’s the failure, not you”) as the film slowly descends into mawkish sludge.

Such concerns are comparatively minor, however, as Are We There Yet? is primarily a convoluted road movie in mould of National Lampoon’s Vacation or Planes, Trains and Automobiles as well as a 21st century spin on the vehicular horror sub-genre. Yet whereas such films once saw the likes of James Brolin (The Car) or Dennis Weaver (Duel) menaced on the roads by some unknown presence hellbent on destroying their respective chosen victims, here the nightmare is of a different variety. No longer is it the human element under threat, but his property. Indeed, it just goes to show how far away Cube is from Boyz n the Hood - in 1991 his character feared for his life, now all he cares about is the bling.

The Disc

Are We There Yet? arrives on DVD in fine condition. The film has been presented anamorphically (at a ratio of 1.78:1) and appears without blemish. Moreover, the colours are suitably vibrant for a family film of this type and there are no technical flaws to speak of. Much the same is true of the soundtrack. Here we are offered a DD5.1 mix which, whilst not overly expansive in its use of the rear channels, comes across perfectly well and without problems.

Unsurprisingly, the film also comes accompanied by a whole host of extras, the most notable of which is the commentary by Brian Levant. Despite making numerable awful movies over the years, he actually proves himself to be an endearing presence and remains engaging for the entire duration. Indeed, it’s an agreeably full track which discusses everything from the fact that the film was initially set up as an Adam Sandler vehicle to the Negro Baseball League.

Levant also appears on the two featurettes. The first is a standard ‘making of’ affair entitled ‘Road Trippin’ and interviews the majority of the cast as well as key crew members. The second takes us inside the collectibles store which Cube owns in the film and touches on the history of black involvement in American sports over the last century, but proves a little too short at only five minutes to go into the subject at much depth.

Elsewhere the disc offers more self-explanatory fare. The deleted scene is decidedly ephemeral, whilst the outtakes are a mite too long at almost eight minutes. Plus we are provided with a storyboard to film comparison on three of the more action packed scenes (including that previously mentioned bout with the deer), some DVD-ROM features and a host of trailers for other Sony product.

All special features come with optional English and Dutch subtitles.

Film
4 out of 10
Video
8 out of 10
Audio
8 out of 10
Extras
6 out of 10
Overall

5

out of 10

Last updated: 19/04/2018 08:31:40

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