2005's "Are We There Yet?" was a detestable, angry piece of kid film crud. The only ray of sunshine breaking through the whole nightmare was the absence of an opening for a sequel. Leave to Hollywood studio execs, when the smell of money is in the air, to change that. Enter "Are We Done Yet?"
Selling his company and looking to start a sports magazine, Nick (Ice Cube), his pregnant wife Suzanne (Nia Long), and kids Lindsey (Aleisha Allen) and Kevin (Phillip Bolden) find they need more space than the city will allow, taking them to the countryside on a hunt for houses. The local realtor/contractor/midwife Chuck (John C. McGinley) takes a shine to the family, and overwhelms the new owners with an extensive list of home improvements Nick thinks he can take care of on his own.
If you can believe this one, "Done" is actually a remake of the 1948 Cary Grant/Myrna Loy comedy, "Mr. Blanding's Builds His Dream House." That's right, from Grant to Cube, ain't Hollywood funny?
Truth is, the slapstick pedigree of the source material suits Cube just fine, and perhaps due to my fingering Rosary beads before the screening began, "Done" is nothing like its vile predecessor. I'm not saying it's a good movie, but there's a different air about this sequel that's even-tempered and welcome.
While crediting "Blanding's" as its inspiration, "Done" seems to have more in common with the other remake born from the loins of Grant, 1986's Tom Hanks pratfall convention, "The Money Pit." "Done" isn't seeking out wit or timing, just laughs wherever it can find them, and it has this odd, peaceful way of chasing the giggles. "There" was such a viciously decrepit piece of cinema; a constant cymbal clang that was determined to annoy the bejesus out of anyone who dared to take a gander. "Done" doesn't have that same agenda, and I'm convinced it's because they've all but jettisoned the kids.
In "There," the characters Lindsay and Kevin were nothing but two little Damiens, and director Brian Levant had the seeds to ask the audience to embrace these two brats, even when the duo made a strong pro-abortion argument with their bottomless chicanery and unholy smarm. "Done" wipes its hands of the two kids, pushing them way into the background and focusing on the adults for this round. While they pop up from time to time for slapstick or tween-bait purposes, it's delightful to sense the producers agree that time with abrasive young actors like Bolden and Allen is wasted.
The problem is, they replaced the children with John C. McGinley, who is 12 Boldens and Allens mashed up into one frightfully unfunny white dude. It's strange to report that McGinley has almost as much screen time as Cube, stealing himself a sizable co-starring role that demands the actor dial his instincts for belligerent comedy all the way up. McGinley's Chuck is meant to be the foil for Nick, but Cube can't match McGinley's speed, and honestly looks perplexed over how to act against him.
Unlike "There," Ice Cube is much more comfortable for the sequel. Instilled with a newfound confidence to play the broad comedy, Cube manages some laughs as he tumbles around the property battling CornNut-hoarding raccoons, sprinting from a family of bats, and falling through floors. Director Steve Carr ("Next Friday") is hardly challenging anyone with his vision for "Done," but the director and star make a good team and Cube seems to be enjoying himself in the film instead of merely surviving it.
"Are We Done Yet?" has its fair share of clunkers, and the McGinley factor blares throughout the entire film, but there's a marked improvement in quality between the two pictures that's tough to ignore. "Done" is a softer picture aimed more at home repair guffaws and comic anxiety rather than a soul-sucking endurance test of misery. The upgrade is appreciated if not completely enjoyed.
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