This week, Ice Cube has Straight Outta Compton coming out (a movie he co-produced that stars his son) a self-aggrandizing, self-mythologizing biopic chronicling his rise to fame as part of “the world’s most dangerous group.” Since we’re in the middle of NWA nostalgia season, I thought this would be the perfect time to revisit Ice Cube’s least dangerous movie, 2005’s Are We There Yet?, which helped spawn the Ice Cube Then and Now meme (technically that was from the sequel, Are We Done Yet?) and prompted my life partner Burnsy to quip, “20 years ago I would’ve pissed my pants if Ice Cube looked at me, and now I want to put my ice cream on his head.”
Not that I begrudge the man. The fact that a gangster rapper can cash in making crappy family movies today just like a pro wrestler or a golden boy quarterback could in years past is, if anything, progress. Still, that doesn’t mean it’s not still hilarious to see the guy who once rapped “forget about the dog fool, he’ll sh*t in the den, a gat is a man’s best friend” starring in a movie that bleeps a Nelly song on the soundtrack.
In any case, I watched 2005’s Are We There Yet, a Portland-to-Vancouver road trip movie starring Ice Cube and Nia Long, which incredibly has four credited screenwriters, so that you don’t have to. And I wrote it up live-blog style to really recreate the experience. Enjoy.
The film opens with Nia Long’s kids planting Home Alone-style booby traps for their mom’s latest date as he walks to the front door, complete with darts, marbles on the walk way, glue-filled water balloons and a giant inflatable Santa Claus that flies off the roof of the house and crashes on the guy’s head, possibly killing him, apparently by remote control. Seems like a waste of some pretty high-level tech, if you ask me. “Merry Christmas, sucker,” says the boy child. “And don’t come back for Kwanzaa,” says the girl child.
This is the opening scene, by the way. I’m reminded of Jingle All The Way, then suddenly realize that it’s the same director. What have I done.
“I feel sorry for the next sucker who tries to put the moves on her,” says the daughter, which is the segue for Ice Cube’s entrance montage.
Ice Cube buys a new car and puts a Satchel Paige bobblehead on the dash – WHICH IMMEDIATELY STARTS TALKING TO HIM. Voiced by Tracy Morgan. F*ck, I had no idea this movie was this weird and I’m not even through the opening credits.
Must Be Da Money” “Ride Wit Me” is playing on the soundtrack, and they actually censor the “if you wanna go and get high with me” part. Keep in mind, this is a movie produced by a guy who spent most of the 90s threatening to murder me. Amazing.
Now we see that Cube runs a sports memorabilia store, where Jay Mohr is his best friend and he spends every day chasing away punk kids. “And people wanna know why I hate kids.” Foreshadowing!
Cube sees Nia Long across the street, instantly falls in love, then sees that she has kids and just as quickly loses interest. “She’s a breeder!” he tells Jay Mohr.
Next scene, it’s pouring rain and Cube sees Nia Long broken down on the side the road. When he realizes who it is, he hits the gas and leaves her there, yelling for help in the rain. UNTIL, that is, talking Satch/Tracy Morgan tells him to do the right thing. This movie is so weird.
Ice Cube gets the jumper cables ready and I’m 90% sure this is a lead up to a Something About Mary-style electrocution joke. Yep, it was. Ice Cube flies 10 feet backwards in the air and lands on the pavement, and with zero transition, it cuts straight to him back in the car with Nia Long driving her home. So that’s what kind of movie this is.
Satchel Paige starts ogling Nia Long. Apparently she can’t hear him talking though, so it’s your classic Calvin and Hobbes-type situation, where only Ice Cube can hear his talking Negro Leagues baseball bobblehead.
Now we find out Ice Cube is an ex triple-A baseball player (Ha!) and that he tore his rotator cuff “trying to lift a flat screen out of my U-Haul.” “Good thing they got athlete’s insurance in case something like that happens.”
So now we know why, and how his character owns a sports memorabilia store in Oregon. I have to give this a lot of credit, for being possibly the most unique setup in all of rom-com-dom, and all while trying to warn young athletes to get insurance. I had to do some googling to see if Ice Cube had ever been an athlete’s insurance spokesman. Looks like no, but I’d almost be more surprised if someone didn’t turn something up.
Anyway, Ice Cube is still driving Nia Long everywhere, blah blah blah montage, now they’re dating.
Oops, no, it turns out he’s in “the friend zone,” which we know because Satch shouts it in Tracy Morgan’s voice. Nia Long teases Cube about him dressing like her seven-year-old son, and when he tries to kiss her she denies him and points out the he’s never asked about her kids. Damn, is Ice Cube going to have to stop being so immature so he can get the girl? This is secretly a Judd Apatow movie, isn’t it.
Now Nia Long’s ex won’t take the kids for New Year’s or something (I sorta zoned out for a while) and she’s a crying mess. Ice Cube to the rescue! He can drive them there, in his black SUV with the spinny rims.
Back at Nia Long’s house to pick up the kids, Nia’s mom (Miss Mabel) is propositioning Ice Cube. I think overly sexual old people jokes may be to crappy 2000s comedy what anchovies-on-pizza jokes were to crappy 80s comedy. Discuss.
And just like that it’s become an “obnoxious kids movie.” The son asks Cube “Do you know Chinese?” And then just kicks him in the balls. I don’t even know what the joke there was supposed to be, but I’m pretty sure it’s racist. Stupid kid, everyone knows the question is “what’s the capital of Thailand?” and the answer is “Bang Cock!” and a sack tap.
Kids being annoying, x 20 minutes
Holy sh*t, there are 56 minutes left of this movie? “Are We There Yet?” is an accurate title.
The son has to pee. Hijinks ensue. Ice Cube breaks him into a truck stop ladies bathroom and the stall is occupied, so the kid has to let fly into the sink with Cube holding him by the armpits. Then a shouting white lady breaks in and the kid pees on her. I admit it, I full on LOL’d. Turns out people screaming in protest while they get urinated on is my comedy sweet spot.
Now the daughter has stolen the car and is doing doughnuts in a parking lot while Ice Cube dangles through the sunroof trying to pull out the keys. A horrified bystander says “That man is setting a bad example for those kids.” That bystander? The running naked man from Sideways. I wonder if he had to audition for this or if Ice Cube was just like “Yo, I want the running naked guy from Sideways.”
Apropos of nothing, there are a jar of olives in Ice Cube’s cupholder that go completely uncommented on. Castelvetrano, I think. Dude has taste. Castelvetrano are the Cadillac of olives.
So, the naked guy from Sideways turns out to be a truck driver. The kids flag him down with a sign that says “HELP ME” while Cube’s not looking, and so the truck driver runs Ice Cube off the road. Definitely the best way to keep the kids safe there, guy. Cube’s Navigator flies down an embankment into the forest, and all of the wheels fly off. Insurance premiums are mentioned, for the third time. I think this movie was financed by an insurance company.
Ice Cube’s car is ruined. And yet there’s still half a movie left. He takes it to the only garage in town (or actually just shows up there, with no explanation of how they got a Navigator out of a ravine). The mechanic is comically Chinese and doesn’t want to work on New Year’s, but Cube bribes him to fix it by trading him a Yao Ming basketball card, that he apparently just carries around with him in case he needs it to bribe a living stereotype. Side note, this movie greatly overemphasizes the importance of New Year’s as a holiday.
Aaaand now the kids have stowed away on a freight train to try to get to their dad’s house. Ice Cube chases after them on horse back. F*ck.
They get to their dad’s house, but before they can knock on the door, they see him through the window with his new wife and baby. Time for a dramatic moment. Ice Cube shows up. “My dad ran out on me too. Took me a lotta years to realize it wasn’t my fault.” Tinkling pianos allll up in this bitch. Thirty-nine more minutes. This was a huge mistake.
Now Ice Cube is teaching the son how to mean mug. Okay, this part is pretty good.
Later, the kid uses his mean mug skills on a bully who tries to steal his brownies. I know that the common view of this movie is that it’s the pinnacle of Ice Cube selling out, but him teaching the next generation how to scare white people is actually pretty perfect.
So the boy kid needs an inhaler, but it’s New Year’s Eve, and the pharmacist is off playing the clown at the local New Year’s Eve party in a high school gym (Jesus, no wonder they needed four screenwriters). So then Ice Cube has to trade places with him and be the gym clown while the pharmacist goes off to make a new inhaler. The kids are all going completely insane until Nia Long’s daughter grabs the mic and starts singing “Respect” by Aretha Franklin. Everyone stops being obnoxious to dance along. This sounds like an absurdist mad lib, but I swear it’s the actual plot.
They crash Cube’s car in the woods again, and Ice Cube feeds a deer some cookies. But the girl takes a picture of it, and the flash makes the deer go crazy so Ice Cube has to beat it up. Later, the car catches on fire and explodes. I love this paragraph.
Now the naked trucker is back and he’s kidnapped the kids (he still thinks they’re in trouble, you see). So Ice Cube car jacks one of those driving billboards to try to catch them.
They’re fighting at an outdoor ice skating rink. Now the kid’s having another asthma attack. Fourteen more minutes to go.
Ice Cube gets the kids back to Nia Long, but they’re late, and look like they’ve been through hell, and she’s pissed. Now they’ll never get together!
But Cube needs to say goodbye to the kids. Dramatic moment. Ice Cube gives the son his Satch bobble head. Then he gives the daughter his crucifix bling chain necklace. Then he gives the son his medallion necklace. Then he tells them he loves them and kisses their heads. It’s at this point that Nia Long finally turns the corner and realizes she loves Cube. Which is funny, because if some random dude showed up giving my kids diamond necklaces and kissing them and saying he loved them I would immediately call the police.
Now it’s over, thank God.
What’s my takeaway from all this? It’s that Ice Cube has that same inexplicable ability that The Rock, Bill Murray, and Arnold Schwarzenegger all have, where they can be in horrific movies but somehow come off all the more likable for it. This might be Ice Cube’s worst movie (the sequel might be worse, I don’t know), which would really be saying something, given Ice Cube’s filmography. Ironically it’s probably the one that most cemented his star power. Without Are We There Yet, do we get Ice Cube in 21 Jump Street?
The fact that a movie where Ice Cube chases a train on horseback and beats up a deer spawned both a sequel and a TBS sitcom starring Terry Crews is the ultimate proof of how starved we were for black sitcoms. And that Ice Cube is one of the greatest self-promoters of all time.