Are We There Yet?
Reviewed by: Caroline Mooney
Comedy, Romance, Family
1 hr. 31 min.
Year of Release:
“24 hours. 350 miles. His girlfriend’s kids. What could possibly go wrong?”
When Nick Persons (Ice Cube), a well-know bachelor, ladies-man, and despiser of children sees Suzanne Kingston (Nia Long) for the first time, it’s love at first site-at least for about 15 seconds, or as long as it takes for him to see that she has two children.
Unable to resist the beautiful and kind Suzanne, Nick throws caution to the wind; he’s willing to do just about anything to get her attention. In one glorious heroic moment, Nick volunteers to bring Suzanne’s two children, Lindsay (Aleisha Allen) and Kevin (Philip Bolden) to meet her in Vancouver where she is working during New Year’s weekend, a favor that would prevent this single mother from losing her job.
After a series of mishaps involving planes and trains, the unlikely threesome is forced to drive the 350-mile stretch. Oh, and did I mention that Nick is driving his brand new Lincoln Navigator, complete with spinning hubcaps? The evolution of the car, at least its condition, is one of funnier parts of the film.
Instead of giving you a blow by blow description of the crazy antics you might expect from two children who believe that no man is good enough to date their mom, and that somehow their mom and dad are going to magically get back together, I’ll let you use your imagination; I promise it won’t be a stretch. Rather, what I will talk about is the misuse of the words “family movie.” But first, I do have a few positive words.
Originally, I planned to take my children with me to the theater, but it just didn’t work out, and I’m now glad that it didn’t—although there are several positive qualities in the film.
But despite these redeeming elements, “Are We There Yet?” is no family film, at least not in my opinion. Sadly, what could have been a predictable, but enjoyable movie for the entire family was tainted with foul language, and not so subtle sexual innuendos. Beginning with the opening song, one of Prince’s sensual ballads, the lyrics “I wanna be your lover” set the stage for the film. From there, while the credits are still rolling, the family movie fantasy dissipates.
Issues for Concern
Overall, the offensive nature of “Are We There Yet?” can be summed up into four main categories: language and attitudes, vulgarity, conflict, and sexual innuendos. Additionally, there is a fighting scene at the end of the film, but no one gets hurt, and it’s more silly than serious.
Language and Attitudes
In addition to the word d*mn, which is used by Nick on several occasions, what bothers me the most is the use of gutter-type slang terms such as “sucker,” “fart,” and “horny”-and these words come from the lips of children. In addition, the two children continuously antagonize each other with name-calling. With such ridiculous fighting and verbal-abuse (“stupid,” for example) going on 24/7, only a movie character could tolerate such nonsense.
As if the language isn’t bad enough, the children’s blatant disrespect for authority is equally appalling. Now I realize that people want to be entertained, and that the writers and director of the film most likely feel the need to exaggerate or inflate incidents to make people laugh, but the children’s exploits, their words and actions, are overdone, making them seem spoiled and disrespectful. Whether the children like Nick or not, he is helping their mother and he deserves respect.
Lastly, and relevant to the poor attitudes displayed in the film, is the theme of women-as-sex-objects. Nick thinks he’s in love, but he’s really in lust. To their credit, the children seem to know that Nick is only interested in their mom because she’s pretty. During one scene, when Suzanne is getting into Nick’s car, he makes a subtle reference to her breasts. Nick makes no attempts to hide his appreciation of a woman’s body, but we know nothing of his appreciation for a woman’s mind.
Much of the vulgarity is covered in the above section on language and attitudes, but there is one particularly distasteful scene in which the younger brother urinates in a lady’s bathroom sink. As if this isn’t enough, a woman comes out of a stall, sees what’s going on, and begins hitting Nick, who’s holding Kevin up to the sink. Nick turns around, and Kevin urinates all over the woman. In another scene, the children gang up on Nick, lock him out of his car, and call him a “dirty, horny, sex-man.”
Most of the film’s conflict revolves around a tumultuous brother-sister relationship, where the children fight constantly, and threaten to tattle at every opportunity, and their relationship with Nick, which until the end of the film is deliberately antagonistic and disrespectful, costing him his brand new Navigator. Even though we can understand the children’s intent, to drive away all men so that their mother and father can get back together again, their “zany” actions and disrespect for authority in real life would have serious consequences.
Referencing women as sex objects, sometimes and sometimes not so subtle, is mentioned above, but there is one specific scene I want to point out. When Nick goes to pick up the children to take them to the airport, Miss Mable (Nichelle Nichols), the trusted babysitter, attempts to seduce Nick. Her sexually provocative words, in essence, suggest that he should dump Suzanne, and take up, instead, with an older woman like herself.
Despite the positive elements of the film, the foul language, the blatant disrespect towards authority, the women-as-sex-objects theme, and the both subtle and not so subtle sexual innuendos make this film, in my opinion, unsuitable for family viewing. Most likely, young children won’t understand the sexual innuendos, but the poor example of a sibling relationship, even in light of the underlying problem of parental abandonment, and the over-exaggerated disobedience and disrespect modeled by the main characters of this film serves to reinforce a positive outcome for behavior I wouldn’t tolerate from my own children.
Sadly, the producer and leading actor of the film, Ice Cube, neglected to really consider the needs of families. The use of foul language, inappropriate attitudes, and sexual connotations is strictly gratuitous, and it robs the film of its potential family-styled quality. In the case of this film, “the ends,” that is the warm-fuzzy happy ending, “do not jusify the means,” the literal road we travel to get there.
Violence: Minor / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: None
See our review page on the sequel to this film: Are We Done Yet?