The Good

The Bad

Ice Cube plays a guy named Nick who basically, against his better judgment, has to escort a women’s kids to meet her in Vancouver. Along the way, there are many trials and misadventures as Ice Cube proves to her and her kids what a good guy he really is. In a nutshell, this is the story of this film. It isn’t something that is striving to change to world, it’s just an unabashedly commercial, family film that seems to be for everyone. I just have a few questions...

Ice Cube comes from the seminal rap group, NWA. In that group he sang a song called “I Ain’t Tha One”. This song is about guy who isn’t the one be taken advantage of by a women. It is all about the perceived things that women do to men, and how the guy in the song isn’t going to get “played”. I just can’t help but wondering what the guy who wrote that song(way back when), would say to the current Ice Cube/Nick character? Look, I am by no means one of those people who espouses the “keep it real” philosophy, simply because what’s the point of trying to advance yourself if you’re not going to reap the benefits? Ice Cube is also someone who knows his audience and he doesn’t see it as limited. Which is also a good thing. I guess I am wondering how much of the audience that made Are We There Yet? a hit, is actually familiar with NWA’s groundbreaking, “Straight Outta Compton” album? I am wondering if people who have also been following Ice Cube from that time are having the same thoughts as myself? Afterall, you are looking with someone who has no formal training in acting or filmmaking, and in MANY ways he’s surpassed people that are way more “textbook” smart then he is. And it’s funny, because it always seems like it’s the people who didn’t go to school that end up being successful, and they in turn end up telling people to stay in school.

Okay, I guess I am just impressed at the career Mr. Cube has had, especially when you consider it was first launched by an album that was recorded for $8,000. Are We There Yet? was a very enjoyable movie that reminded not so much of Home Alone, but rather that seminal Thanksgiving movie, Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Also, the two kids that play opposite Ice Cube are terrific young actors that I am sure we are going to see more of.

Features

Blooper Reel and Deleted Scene

This reel is an enjoyable combination of clips showing what happened in between the takes on the set of this movie. I found them to be funny and enjoyable, and I also loved how when Ice Cube would mess up, he would often say bad words. How bloopers from a movie like this wouldn’t be funny is anybody’s guess, but lets just say that everything is where it should be. The deleted scene is just another riff on when Ice Cube picks up the kids for the trip to Vancouver. Although, you gotta love that one of movies he has in the backseat of his car is Anaconda.

A Tour of Nick’s Fine Sports Collectibles and Storyboard Comparisons

Director Brian Levant walks us through the sports shop that Ice Cube’s character works in. It is an interesting featurette that should appeal to sports fans most of all. I say this because the director gives a nice account of the reasons for why certain memorabilia is in the shop. The storyboard comparisons are laid out and we see the shot from the movie at the same time. Nothing too special here although “film production” people might find these things quite useful.

Road Trippin’ - The Making of Are We There Yet? Director’s Commentary

I did these things together mainly because I feel that they both serve the same purpose, only the director’s commentary obviously goes a lot deeper into what went into bringing this story to the big screen. I just enjoyed the humor and good natured feeling that these extras gave me. The Director is obviously someone who loves and understands the genre he is working in, so it was especially nice to get his take on everything. A lot of “adult type extras” for what I feel is essentially a kids DVD, but good stuff nonetheless.

Play Games!

Simply insert your DVD into your computer, it has to have a DVD-ROM, and there are games that kids can play. I didn’t play these games but I am sure your kids will probably enjoy them. If they don’t well then I am sorry but at least I tried, right?

Video

1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen. This movie is a slicky done, deftly told family tale. It doesn’t have amazing shots, or panoramic vistas and doesn’t seem like it even needs to be widescreen. Everything about this movie is done to tell the story simply and hopefully negotiate some laughs out of the viewers. There are a lot of red colors in the movie and as a result the DVD transfers and compression look extremely sharp. I sort of wonder why these movies are given such an amazing transfer process, mainly because the audience is younger kids(with I am sure some adults thrown in) and I don’t think they really care about the movie being in the widescreen format. From the young kids I have surveyed about this(okay, I didn’t actually survey anybody about this I just heard things), they don’t like widescreen simply because they think that the black bars are cutting off the pictures. Us film buffs can laugh at this because we know they are actually seeing more of the movie because of the bars.

Audio

English 5.1(Dolby Digital), French(Dolby Surround). This movie has the classic comedy tones and sounds of all those movies we loved in the 1980s. Scenes are highlighted by little “zingers” here and there that do nothing more then underscore the comedic moments in the movie. All of this is good, and as evidenced by the “blooper reel” that comes with the supplemental materials, seems very organic in it’s creation. It is readily apparent that all the people involved know how to make this kind of easy to swallow movie. The sound was merely a component to bring out more laughs and underscore the emotional scenes between Ice Cube and the two kids he is with. To my recollection, there wasn’t a ton of “hip hop” sounding music, it was more or less used in specific moments to basically help the comedy out. I actually watched this movie on a surround sound setup of some sort, and after we got the volume worked out everything sounded find.

Package

Like Mac Culkin in Home Alone, Ice Cube adorns the front cover with his hands on his face and his mouth agape. Behind him are a bunch screaming kids, including the two main children that make his life a living hell on the road trip to Vancouver. There is even the deer that Ice Cube has a fight with(what would Eazy say?). The back has a few establishing character shots from the movie, a decent description of the movies contents, the Special Features listings and tech specs. The disk itself features Ice Cube, using a classic Ice Cube sneer, with the two kids seemingly mimicking him. I might be wrong, but it seems like everyone associated with this movie had a good time on the 50+ day shoot.

Final Word

During my screening of Are We There Yet?, the person I watched it with kept joking, saying things like, “MC Ren is turning over in his grave”(which is doubly insulting because Ren isn’t even dead) and “Is it over yet?”. I have to respectfully disagree with my friends assessment of this film. Sure, there was a lot of “stupid comedy” and yes, seeing Ice Cube in a plastic, syrupy film like this is a bit disheartening. However, when I think about the other films he has done, other then working with John Singleton, the movies he has made never seemed to be anything more then for entertainment purposes(I also have to include the industrious Three Kings in the “serious” films pile).

So, in conclusion, it should come as no surprise that Ice Cube, despite his rugged and rough start with NWA, has mellowed a bit in terms of his film career. As a person, I am sure he is a fiery as ever, but I think he has realized, and his films show this, you really do catch more flies with honey then you do with vinegar.