Remember when Ice Cube was dangerous? The former hardcore voice of inner-city rage has become a tame mouthpiece for corporate Hollywood mediocrity, and the transition is still jarring. The sellout road from gangsta to prankster is a bumpy one, and where Cube used to rhyme about battling thugs and cops; this dismal little slab of "family fun" finds him throwing down with a pesky raccoon.
A wholly unnecessary follow-up to the dreadful road-trip pic Are We There Yet, this film casts Cube as Nick, a harried house husband grappling with a fixer-upper nightmare. Finding his downtown Portland bachelor pad suddenly overcrowded with two stepkids and a wife pregnant with twins, Nick seeks more elbow room for his brood in a huge, rustic country house. The basic storyline is borrowed from the 1948 chestnut Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, which wasn't really a masterpiece but was blessed with two of the all-time great screen comedians, Cary Grant and Myrna Loy.
No such luck here.
Instead, we get the perpetually surly Cube and the sickeningly syrupy Nia Long, awkwardly rumbling through stilted scenes of domestic squabbling and near endless pratfalls. Attempting to spice up this grim tableau is the antic John C. McGinley (Scrubs), as gratingly cheerful realtor Chuck, who conveniently undersells the stately home's massive faults. Turns out he's also the local building inspector, contractor, herbalist, midwife, power-walking champion and a host of other trades, as well as being the bane of Nick's sad existence. Bobbing along with his frizzy blond mop and huge, pearly white grin, McGinley commits wholesale scene larceny time and again, which isn't a feat though, since nobody else breaks a sweat. As an army of repairmen begin tearing his new castle to bits, Cube glowers, barks and grumbles, but not in a charming, Archie Bunker way, but like a man with homicide on his mind. He could start with director Steve Carr, (the genius auteur behind Daddy Day Care) who's clumsy pacing keeps the film moving at a breathless, laughless gasp of cartoon calamity. True, there are slightly fewer pee-pee and poo-poo jokes than average for the genre, but only because the kids have reached adolescence, and that would be, uh, gross. In lieu of scatology we get treated to wacky animal gags, like the aforementioned raccoon, a friendly chipmunk, a hawk and an Orca-sized trout that tries to drag Cube under a lake. The Orca wasn't successful, sadly, so beware another sequel: Are We Still Making This Crap?
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.