Ice Cube takes the Cary Grant role in Are We Done Yet?, a film that's both a remake of Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House and a sequel to the family comedy Are We There Yet?. This strange beast was made possible by the long-aborning resurgence of RKO Pictures, which is determined to make crisp cash from its dusty properties. That an animated Ice Cube kicks the "From the RKO Pictures Library" credit off the screen is a harbinger of things to come in the following ninety minutes.
Are We Done Yet? retains the basic idea of family man put upon by wife, kids, and contractors. Because this is the time of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Nick Persons (Cube) doesn't so much build his dream house in the country; rather, he renovates it, while being frustrated at every turn by John C. McGinley's annoying jack-of-all-trades Chuck. Spoiler alert!: Chuck's the real-estate agent and the contractor and the government inspector, roles that seem at odds with his new-age streak. He's also a midwife, which just might come in handy for Nick's pregnant wife Suzanne, played again by Nia Long (Suzanne's kids, played by Philip Bolden and Aleisha Allen, also return).
Unfortunately, the original picture's mild satire gets drowned out here by mirthless, sitcomedic gags, maudlin sentiment, and a slapstick parade of CGI animals and boobytrapped appliances. Screenwriter Hank Nelken and director Steve Carr see no reason to use a revolver when they can use an automatic weapon, and the scattershot results include everything from gags about chronically messy kids turning dad into a modern-art canvas (see Are We There Yet?, Carr's Daddy Day Care, and Steve Martin's recent output) to a hideous, pool-party cover of "Fun, Fun, Fun" by teenage Allen.
In the end, the picture is as much a remake of What About Bob?, with McGinley in the Bill Murray role. Though he's probably acceding to McGinley's vanity, Carr shows a weird fascination with McGinley's physique; the leathery, forty-seven-year-old Scrubs star repeatedly takes his shirt off. Are we Done Yet? is as annoying as Chuck, with its cartoony Teddy Castellucci score and product placement. The plug for Corn-Nuts leads into this winning punchline, aimed at a thieving squirrel: "You should know not to mess with a man's nuts." The only joke I can recall that elevates above that decidedly low mark finds Ice Cube weeping over the prize of his own private toilet.
The most annoying component of the film may be its absurd contempt for any kind of realism or role modeling. That it's a family comedy may somewhat excuse the former, but exacerbates the latter. Nick's new dream is to become the publisher-editor of a startup sports magazine, All About Sports. Working without a staff or a clue (print magazines are hardly a growth industry), Nick spends the span of the picture—nine months—trying to come up with interview questions for Magic Johnson. Spoiler alert!: and he fails to prepare a single one (but Magic clock-punches a cameo anyway). Then there's this exchange between aspiring journalist Nick and his stepdaughter Lindsey. Lindsey: "Do you got Pop Tarts?" Nick: "It's 'Do we got Pop-Tarts?'" Note: executive producer Ice Cube hired a white writer and white director to do this to him.
Role-modeling for the audience, Nick's kids enjoy laughing at his misfortune. He gets no sympathy from his wife, either, who loves the fraudulent Chuck and solely blames Nick for the family's woes. Sure, Nick's an irresponsible idiot, but she was right there when they bought the house, and just smiles moonily as the house crumbles around her and Nick's career disintegrates. Ostensibly, the message of Are We Done Yet? is the difference between an expensive house and a priceless home, but since the message is taught by a greedy psychopath, it rings a bit hollow. The best idea would be to stay home.