I like Ice Cube as an actor. With the exception of xXx: State of the Union and Torque, he has an easygoing charisma on the screen and he comes across as a likable guy. Are We Done Yet? is one of those movies that, while not great, is good and plays to his strengths.
The movie itself is a remake of Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, a Cary Grant screwball comedy from 1948. I haven't seen that film, but this one reminded me of The Money Pit, which has Tom Hanks making a valiant attempt to renovate a large home which is falling apart faster than he can put it back together. Either way you want to look at it, the movie will put a smile on your face, though it won't leave a lasting impression.
This is a sequel to the 2005 surprise hit Are We There Yet? That film featured Ice Cube as Nick Persons, a single man romancing a divorced mother of two (Nia Long as Suzanne), agreeing to drive her children from Portland to Vancouver on New Year's Eve. The trip proves to be a tough one, as the kids set out to make Nick's life as rough as possible. Are We Done Yet? picks up some time after the events of the earlier movie. Nick and Suzanne are now married and the whole family is living in Nick's tiny apartment.
The comedy kicks off as Nick learns that Suzanne is pregnant; suddenly the apartment feels even smaller. Nick decides they need a little more room and moves the family out to the country and a larger home. Needless to say, this turns out to be a bit tougher than would initially meet the eye. From the kids wanting to go back to the city, his wife's mood swings, the house literally falling apart around them, and the real estate/contractor/inspector who seems to be tormenting them, Nick just cannot seem to win.
Nick Persons and the other characters in this film exist in some alternate world where no one asks the right questions, nor does anyone stop and actually plan what their next move is going to be. Instead of acting like reasonable people, everyone tries to outdo everyone else. Surprisingly, the wackiness works, for the most part. This is the kind of movie that will carry you along on a wave of goodwill; it won't make you work too hard while it lands most of the softball gags. I enjoyed it for what it was.
Stealing the show from Ice Cube's good-natured mugging is John C. McGinley as Chuck Mitchell, the local jack of all trades in the country town. McGinley seemed to be channeling the seriously sarcastic side of Dr. Cox (his character on Scrubs) while injecting it with some genuine feeling, reeling in the sarcasm. It was just a crazy role for him and it allowed him to make use of a whole array of odd comic timing, mannerisms, and character tics. Cube is likable as he struggles with balancing the house repairs, his surprisngly understanding wife, and the constantly moving target that is McGinley.
As much as I enjoyed the ride, I couldn't help but think that it could have been better. For one thing, I kept wanting to know more about Nick and his magazine issues — it seems like more could have been peppered in. To make room for that, they could have cut the animal facial expression gags, which I thought were rather awful. The story could have been stronger, I just never felt all that involved with it; sure I laughed, but I can't say that I really cared if everything worked out or not.
Bottom line. Definitely a fun diversion that is safe for the family. It will make you laugh, you will smile at the antics, you may even be able to relate to it a bit, but in the end, you will probably forget much of it by the time you get home. Sometimes, that is all that we need, something to put a smile on our face.