[Screen It]

(2007) (Ice Cube, Nia Long) (PG)

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Comedy: A man, his pregnant wife, and her two kids move into a country home, unaware that it's going to be in need of constant repairs.
Now that he's married his former girlfriend, Suzanne (NIA LONG), and adopted her two kids, 13-year-old Lindsey (ALEISHA ALLEN) and her younger brother Kevin (PHILIP BOLDEN), Nick Persons (ICE CUBE) thinks it's time for them to move into a bigger place. Having sold his sports store so that he can publish his own sports magazine, Nick convinces an uncertain Suzanne and a very reluctant Lindsey that they should move from his small city apartment to a big house out in the country.

Local real estate agent Chuck Mitchell Jr. (JOHN C. McGINLEY) is quite eager to show them a 19th century fixer-upper that initially appears to be in decent shape. After signing on the bottom line, however, they realize the place is going to be in need of constant repairs, many of them major.

Enter contractor Chuck Mitchell Jr. (again, JOHN C. McGINLEY) who seems to suffer from some form of split personality disorder where he only acts like the persona that goes along with whatever the related hat he's wearing might be. Nick isn't pleased by that development or that Chuck's also the official inspector or trained midwife, and thus tries to do things by himself and/or on the cheap, thus resulting in bigger messes.

With Chuck bringing in an entire crew of subcontractors who proceed to tear the place up, and as Suzanne gets nearer to delivering their expected twins, Nick tries to retain his composure as one home-based disaster after another occurs under and all around his roof.

OUR TAKE: 2 out of 10
There are many advantages to owning vs. renting a house, townhouse or condo, but the one that never gets mentioned in any sales pitch is that as the owner, you're responsible for all of the repairs yourself. And unless you're Bob Vila or someone of similar skills, you're going to be facing big bills from contractors and/or headaches from trying to make any number of various fixes yourself.

That very notion has fueled many a movie -- in comedic form, of course -- ranging from "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House" with Cary Grant and Myrna Loy to its update nearly forty years later, "The Money Pit" featuring Tom Hanks and Shelley Long as the hapless couple who get in way over their heads as their seemingly lovely country house falls apart all around them.

The former is considered a classic, while the latter isn't, even if it contained a smattering of funny moments. It seems like a comedy classic, however, when compared to "Are We Done Yet?" Listed as being based on the Grant movie, it's actually the sequel to the abysmal "Are We There Yet?" the 2005 film that itself borrowed some ages old Hollywood constructs -- the road trip and single man stuck with several kids who drive him crazy plots -- and unsuccessfully jammed them together.

The results were disastrous, at least from a critical standpoint, although that doesn't always mean anything in terms of box office and later DVD sales and rentals. With enough of a positive return on all such counts, that obviously enticed those with their fingers on the green light switch to throw it again.

Thus, we have Ice Cube reprising his role as the annoyed man, once again proving he's the wrong guy for this sort of part. In the interim between the films, he's gotten married, become stepdad to the two kids (Aleisha Allen and Philip Bolden returning to reprise their roles) who previously drove him batty, and gotten his wife (Nia Long once again in a barely sketched out role) pregnant with twins. If that's not bad enough, they end up moving into a 19th century estate where looks don't mean squat. Buyer beware indeed.

In fact, viewer beware, because nothing that develops after that is remotely funny, interesting, or novel. Joining the cast this time around is John C. McGinley as the real estate agent cum contractor cum inspector who switches between vocations -- and, apparently, personalities -- as easily as switching the various job appropriate hats he dons.

Even that bit is borrowed -- old '60s era sitcoms occasionally utilized the same -- and while McGinley gives it his best shot to make at least some of that funny, he's constantly undermined by the week script courtesy of Hank Nelken and inept direction thanks to Steve Carr ("Rebound," "Daddy Day Care").

Thankfully, the Satchel Paige bobble-head bit (where the baseball figurine with the bouncy head served as Cube's conscience of sorts in the first film) has been jettisoned. Unfortunately, the "when animals attack" gag has been expanded, this time to include a returning Bambi, but also bats, an owl and a raccoon (that, thank goodness they couldn't resist, says "Sucker!" when Cube falls through the roof down to the porch below). It isn't any funnier this around either.

The other running gag concerns Long's pregnancy and McGinley also playing a part-time midwife, but similarly doesn't go anywhere. Even a bit where he must hightail it over to their house -- via "power walking" in small shorts -- to help deliver the baby is bungled, with nothing being added to the repeated sight gag to take it to the next comedic level.

Instead, we just get more of the same old, same old, meaning everyone and everything driving Cube into a progressively deeper scowl. That is, until he learns his lesson and suddenly has a change of heart and attitude. By the time that syrupy development predictably rolls around, it's too late for us to care. Assembled as poorly as the house that appears in it, "Are We Done Yet?" needs the wrecking ball treatment and soon before it spawns "Have We Had Enough Yet?" The film rates as a 2 out of 10.

Reviewed March 31, 2007 / Posted April 4, 2007

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