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The central message to Are We There Yet? is one of sincerity and wholesomeness. But the road traveled to get there is strewn with miles of hatred, humiliation, materialism, mean-spiritedness and the confirmation to children that it's OK to be a snot-nosed little brat. Perhaps I'm being a bit too harsh, but it's hard to remain neutral when a film's moral compass comes not from human integrity but rather in the form of a wisecracking, bobble-headed effigy of pitching legend Leroy Page that not only sullies the memory of ol' "Satchel", but also cheapens the standards of what we know as common human decency.

Nick Persons (Ice Cube) is a washed up minor league ball player who now owns a sports memorabilia shop in Portland, Oregon. Loaded with "blingage" from head to toe, Nick picks up his new Lincoln Navigator, pimped-out with spinning rims and a killer sound system. I'm not sure how a shopkeeper can afford such accessories, but I guess that's beside the point. What is the point? That Nick loves his ride and it's going to take a special force to separate the two.

It's made clear early on that Nick is an eligible bachelor who loves women but despises children. However his "no kids" policy is quickly put to the test when he meets the gorgeous Suzanne (Nia Long), a career woman whose husband recently walked out, leaving her alone with two children. Elevenish Lindsey (Aleisha Allen) and eightish Kevin (Philip Bolden) have made a pact to wreck any new relationship their mother strikes up, in hopes that their father might come back in their lives. At first, their schemes involve rather benign pranks along the lines of those in Home Alone, but by the time the credits roll, not only are we questioning why Nick would still want anything to do with this family, but we're also wanting to call child protective services to report the mother for condoning such sadistic behavior.

The film becomes a formulaic road trip picture along the lines of National Lampoon's Vacation when Nick capitalizes on an opportunity to get in good with Suzanne by agreeing to drive the kids to Vancouver. Their journey begins innocently enough and quickly escalates into a full-blown nightmare as the trio encounters everything from overactive bladders, to rabid deer and psychotic truckers.

The best thing about Are We There Yet? is Ice Cube. He has a smooth delivery and unique comic timing that just oozes coolness. But he gives it up for his career in this one. At any given moment he's either getting thrown from a horse, being vomited on or taking a woodsman's axe to the groin. But somehow his love for the children grows as his Navigator disintegrates.

The kids never come off as either believable or loveable. And while we're at it they're not funny and they can't act either. I like childish shenanigans and humorous sight gags as much as the next guy, but when it comes to breaching the investment we've put into teaching children how to protect themselves, I have a low threshold for acceptance. One particular scene is not unlike faking a 911 call just to pull a prank on someone.

The film's spirit is so downright mean and distasteful that by the time we reach the end, what was meant to be a tender, heartfelt reunion of the children with their mom, feels more like a much-needed confirmation to the audience that the agony of watching this film is finally over. Instead of walking out of the theater pleasantly entertained with a warm heart, I found myself wondering how to explain its lack of common decency to my youngster.


DVD Details:

Screen formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 1.85:1

Subtitles: English; French; Chinese; Korean; Thai; Closed Captioned

Language and Sound: English: Dolby Digital 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; deleted scenes; director's commentary.

* Commentaries:
o With Brian Levant - Director
* Featurettes:
o "Road Trippin" making of featurette
o "A Tour of Nick's Fine Sports Collectibles"
* Trailer: Original theatrical trailer for Kinsey plus teaser trailer. Also a trailer for What the Bleep do We Know?
* Deleted Scenes - Total of 20 deleted scenes (with optional commentary) that didn't make the final cut.
* Gag Reel - Outtakes.
* Film to Storyboard comparisons
* Trailers
* DVD-Rom - Interactive games

Number of discs: 1 - Keepcase packaging.