Ice Cube has a surprisingly diverse filmography, ranging from hard-edge comedies (the 'Friday' series) to mindless action extravaganzas ('xXx: State of the Union') to award-winning dramas ('Three Kings'). Most recently, his continued genre-dabbling has led the rapper-turned-actor to a series of family comedies, including 2005's critically-drubbed 'Are We There Yet,' a film that grossed more than $80 million at the box office.
Of course, that kind of money tends to guarantee one thing in Hollywood -- a sequel. And so came 'Are We Done Yet,' which saw Ice Cube reprise his role as Nick Persons, a man whose life took an unexpected turn when he fell in love with a single mother named Suzanne (Nia Long). While 'Are We There Yet?' focused on Nick's strained relationship with with Suzanne's two children (played by Aleisha Allen and Philip Bolden) over the course of a cross-country trip, this sequel sees the newly formed family move from the bustling city to the country.
When a real estate agent named Chuck (John C. McGinley) offers Nick a too-good-to-be-true deal on a beautiful home near the water, he jumps at the opportunity before realizing that the house is a bottomless pit of renovations. Borrowing its premise from the 1948 comedy 'Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House' (which was remade once before in 1986 as the Tom Hanks comedy, 'The Money Pit'), the film goes on to tell the classic story of man vs house. Faced with a series of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, will Nick somehow emerge victorious and manage to convince his family that their move was the right one?
Panned by critics upon its theatrical release in April of 2007 (the film currently has an 8% rotten rating at Rotten Tomatoes), simply put, 'Are We Done Yet?' is a poor excuse for comedy, offering little more than simple set-ups and predictable slapstick that can't even justify the time it takes to watch the film.
The characters are cookie cutter at best and the script is equal parts yawns and plot holes. John C. McGinley's character was the only person who had me laughing, but even he isn't given enough room to work his magic. Instead, he's relegated to being a pseudo-villain that can't embrace the deviance his manipulative actions imply is hiding beneath the surface.
Perhaps worst of all, the kids are both generic and distasteful. Anyone who thinks their behavior is "cute" or akin to "kids being kids" is misjudging the blatantly mean-spirited script. I could barely muster enough drive to finish the movie when the inevitable moral presented itself, but it's so sugary and contrary to the developments in the plot that it felt like the last five minutes of an episode of "Full House."
I thought the series' first film was a meandering mess, but at least it provided its characters with logical behavior based on their circumstances. 'Are We Done Yet?' is a weak examination of pride that seems to despise all of its characters. I wouldn't recommend this film to anyone -- particuarly those who might intend to watch it with their children. There are far better and funnier choices out there for a fun evening at home with the kids.
Well, at least the film looks good. 'Are We Done Yet?' is presented with a shiny 1080p transfer that utilizes the AVC MPEG-4 codec to great effect. Colors are vibrant, detailing is suitably sharp, and the natural setting is host to plenty of impressive visuals. The picture crafts a convincing level of depth with strong shadow delineation and stable contrast. Scenes inside the house pack the most punch and I even found evening shots to retain a certain crispness that other transfers sometimes lose in low-light situations. While grain does casually spike at points throughout the film, the transfer isn't marred by any source noise or artifacting.
On the not-so-good side, the film's primary-pushing palette tends to make skintones seem slightly artificial throughout the film, while textures in exterior scenes sometimes seem to sharpen and soften depending on the shot. While both of these issues seem to be inherent to the print (and not a direct fault of this transfer), they combine together to craft a less-than-perfect visual experience that doesn't live up to other high-def releases in this genre. To be sure, this is still an above average video presentation -- it just isn't the sort of transfer that would pop to mind if I wanted to show off my high-def equipment.
Sadly, the audio package doesn't fare nearly as well as the video. 'Are We Done Yet?' provides a distractingly average-sounding uncompressed PCM 5.1 surround mix (16-bit/48 kHz/4.6 Mbps) that initially sent me bounding around the room checking my receiver and speakers. Once I confirmed that everything was working properly, I sat back down and began to furiously scribble notes about the film's empty soundscape.
In short, it seems like the rear channels were almost completely neglected by the sound designers, with nearly all of the sound rendered across the front three speakers. To be fair, I did notice a little bit of increased movement in more chaotic scenes (like the various raccoon chases), but this is the rare PCM track that lacks presence and ambiance and I never felt immersed in the soundfield.
On the bright side, I did note clear dialogue, appropriate prioritization, and decent dynamics. The subwoofer in particular provides a backbone to the myriad of shouts, falls, breaking glass, and splintering wood sprinkled throughout the story, but it's not enough to save this lackluster effort that fails to acknowledge the word "surround" in "surround sound".
The Blu-ray edition of 'Are We Done Yet?' includes all of the special features from the standard DVD, but they're predictably brief and shallow.
First up is "KIDding Around on the Set: Making 'Are We Done Yet'" (6 minutes), which is an extended commercial obnoxiously hosted by the young actors from the film. Next comes a dry "Blooper Reel" (3 minutes), and a "Film Quiz" hosted by Philip Bolden (the young actor who plays Suzanne's son) that is hands down one of the worst features I've ever witnessed. Instead of a trivia track or an interactive game, we get a trite exercise where Bolden plays short sections of the movie, pauses the playback, and asks you to identify the next line of dialogue in the scene. On the plus side, I laughed -- out loud -- at the sheer lunacy of this being included as a "special" feature.
The only other supplement is "Chuck Mitchell: Jack of All Trades' (3 minutes), a featurette highlighting character actor John C. McGinley. As a huge fan of his film roles and more recent stint on "Scrubs" as Dr. Cox, I was actually excited to get to this one. But alas, any hope of an entertaining romp with Dr. Cox was dashed as I realized that the majority of the video is comprised of clips from the film with blink-and-you'll-miss-em interview segments with McGinley.
(Note that all of the supplements listed above are presented in 1080i video.)
To be blunt, I didn't like 'Are We Done Yet?' in the least, and I would be surprised if many families found much to enjoy here, either. As a Blu-ray release, it doesn't fare much better -- although it boasts an above-average visual presentation, an empty soundfield kills the audio package and a lack of substantial features leave this one destined for the bargain-bin.