Warning! This site contains satire, cynical adult humor, celebrity gossip, and an occasional peanut by-product or two!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Are We Done Yet?

Once in a while I find myself watching a movie and wondering why in the hell did they even make this coma-inducer in the first place. It’s not that the movie is bad. We all know B*A*D, but it’s one of those movies that just doesn’t seem to go anywhere. It malingers, wandering around for a couple of hours but not really doing anything except eliciting yawns. Usually this happens with meaningless sequels or anything starring Fishsticks Paltrow.

The “why in the hell” factor with sequels is because the original movie made at least enough cash to convince the studio heads there was more money to be milked from the audience. I’m convinced these studio guys have such contempt for the original projects in these cases that when they actually turn a profit the bosses toast one another while giggling like school girls over what they perceive is the overwhelming stupidity of the general audience “out there.” “'That audience’, for these types of films, is usually a niche market. It’s either movies for youth, for the “artsy fartsy” crowd, or for films starring minorities. I know that sounds cynical and harsh, but it is true. Don’t think for a minute that even a movie starring Denzel gets the kind of green-light funding as an action flick starring Bruce, and Denzel is by far the exception to the norm in terms of his Q quotient. The Q quotient is a measurement tool that studios use to
score just how famous the famous are, how much the public recognizes and can identify specific celebrities. Let’s face it. When it comes to minority stars, Denzel is going to get way bigger numbers than someone like Ice Cube, if for no other reason than most blue-haired ladies in Island Pond aren’t going to know there is even a person named Ice Cube. You say “Ice Cube?” to one of them and she’s going to more likely than not respond by asking if you’d like more lemonade to go with that. Thus is the curse of having a Q quotient that will land you on the D List. So Mr. Cube (actual name O’Shea Jackson, which, if you ask me, which you didn’t, I think is much cooler anyway. Cooler. Ha! Get it? Ice Cube. Cooler. I got a million of them) watches Denzel movies and instead makes crapola like Torque and wishes it was of Denzel quality.

A couple of years ago he did luck out with an okay comedy called Are We There Yet? in which he played a playboy bachelor named Nick who falls head over heels for a divorced mother of two. Unfortunately, in order to score points with the beauty, Nick had to tame the beasts, in this case her two kids who were determined to sabotage any relationship he may have wanted to have with their
mom as they were determined for their parents to get back together someday. Professionals skewered the movie and even armchair critics complained about its’ lack of originality, its’ wretched acting, and its’ dimwitted writing. Even so, the movie opened at number one in January 2005 and grossed $82,301,521 in the US alone; for a movie that cost $32 million, including marketing and advertising, this made it ripe for a sequel. Apparently, the studio didn’t care whether that meant it had to be good. After all, if everybody said the first one stunk and it still made almost triple its money back, then did it make any difference if the sequel was an Oscar contender? Pop the Dom Perignon! We have another moneymaker in the pipeline. What to call it? What to call it? How about Are We Done Yet?

It takes a brave director to take on a movie with a title like
Are We Done Yet? but Steve Carr has already proven to be that, having tackled some of the lesser successes of a couple of other high profile African American stars of today. He gave us Eddie Murphy in Daddy Day Care and Dr. Dolittle 2, and Martin Lawrence in Rebound, so who better to prove whether Ice Cube’s career is done yet?

Writer Hank Nelken, whose last produced script was 2001’s Killer Bud, shows no signs of having
actually seen the original film, which is too bad, because the most fun to be had from the first movie was the interactions between Nick (Mr. Cube, of course) and the sassy kids, Lindsey (Aleisha Allen; The School of Rock) and Kevin (Philip Bolden; How To Eat Fried Worms). Their mutual antagonism for one another, whether because of accidental circumstances or genuine personality clashes, was the key to every laugh Are We There Yet? had to offer. Now comes Are We Done Yet? and the answer is obviously “yes”. The kids are pretty much shoved to the side in this installment and treated like furniture. They have next to nothing to do except stand around and whine about the tragedy of having been forced to move to the country, which is the whole set-up for the film’s alleged comedy.

Since the original movie Nick and Suzanne have gotten married and moved into his one bedroom
bachelor pad with her two kids. Guffaws are somehow to be had from watching Nick fall over toys scattered everywhere and then see him suffer as he tries to concentrate on his writing while constantly distracted by the flow of his wife and step-children as they continually shift back and forth past his computer as he works on his start-up magazine. When Suzanne announces she is pregnant with twins, suddenly it is goodbye Portland and hello countryside as Nick and Suzanne bundle up the kids and move into a gigantic fixer-upper out in the boonies.

This is where the family turns into non-entities because the rest of the movie becomes a recycled cross between the old Tom Hanks and Shelley Long movie The Money Pit and just about every episode ever made of tv’s “Green Acres”, this time featuring John C. McGinley of NBC’s “Scrubs” and the current release Wild Hogs as a modern-day Mr. Haney, always on hand with a new (and expensive) scheme to help fix up the very same wreck of a house he sold Nick as a being “good as new” just weeks earlier. In the months that follow, McGinley’s character, Chuck, becomes more and more outlandish as he appears to be everything from a certified home inspector to a certified midwife, always just what Nick or Suzanne needs at just the right time.

The chemistry between Cube (I’m sorry but I can’t seriously call someone that) and McGinley is very funny. They play off one another in a slapstick kind of way a la Gleason and Carney (or for the younger crowd maybe a less intellectual Frasier and Niles Crane), but ultimately their wordplay can’t make up for the fact that the rest of the family might just as well have stayed in Portland. After all, it is pretty clear that if they asked the question
Are We Done Yet? the answer would be a definite yes. I know that is a question the audience was asking after the first twenty minutes or so.

No comments: