Road Trip!!! Judge Katie Herrell call shotgun.
24 hours. 350 miles. His girlfriend's kids. What could possibly go wrong?
Originally released on DVD in 2005, this bonus feature enhanced version was cringe-worthy at times, but also heartwarming. It's a feel-good, adventure flick for kids, and won't drive adults completely crazy.
Facts of the Case
Nick Persons (Ice Cube) is a long-time ladies' man who despises kids yet falls head over heels for a single mama, Suzanne (Nia Long), with two darlings. To win her love, Nick agrees to shuttle Suzanne's kids from Portland to Vancouver for New Year's Eve. On the long journey, everything that can go wrong does, and Nick learns first-hand what it means to be a parent.
Ice Cube, in all his hip-hop glory, is the star and hero of this road trip-centered kiddy film. He begins as an aging bachelor who owns a "fine sports collectibles" shop, drives a pompous SUV with spinning rims, and loves women but stays far away from "breeders." But that all changes when he meets Suzanne Kingston, the doll-faced Nia Long (Big Momma's House) who emits every bad blonde stereotype without being blonde. She is not the empowered single mama I think the script intended; rather she is forcibly airy with a fake edge of authority. Her two bratty children try to sabotage all of her fledgling relationships in hopes of reuniting their parents.
Suzanne and Nick strike up a friendship when her car breaks down and he begins chauffeuring her to and from work everyday. (They conveniently work across the street from one another.) Nick is interested in a romantic relationship, but Suzanne senses Nick's blatant dislike for children and insists their relationship stay platonic. When Suzanne's ex-husband bails on a New Year's Eve reunion with his children, Nick volunteers to shuttle the two Macaulay Culkin knock-offs to their mother's business trip in Vancouver. (They all live in Portland.) What ensues is a Planes, Trains and Automobiles-esque debacle that leaves Nick with a charred SUV; the kids with the devastating realization that their father has a new family; and a forever traumatized deer.
Their journey circulates from cliched, to funny, to painful, and back again. Several elements, such as the talking Satchel Paige bobble head on Nick's dashboard and the jabs at various ethnic and religious groups, prevent the adult viewer from completely dozing off—even if they don't entirely impress.
Kids will love the attitude of Lindsey and Kevin, Nick's charges, who reveal their longing for their father by acting outrageously. Their numerous antics should have ended every one of Nick's nine lives, but thanks to a cinematic form of reality he escapes unscathed again and again.
Lindsey, played by Aleisha Allen, is really a very good actor. A pint-size diva in a polka dot hat, she is charming and a rascal at the same time. Kevin, played by Philip Bolden, is much more of an amateur, relying on his doe eyes to convey every emotion.
The video is obvious big-budget and the scenery and shots along their cross-country drive are enticing. The soundtrack is a little hip-hop, a little Aretha Franklin; it's fitting, but not inspired. The special features expose how big-budget this movie really is: Nick's store—which is in the movie for less than five minutes total—includes a beautifully drawn mural, commissioned just for the film, as well as multiple baseball artifacts that the producers payed a pretty penny for. The blooper reel is amusing, but not laugh-out-loud funny, which is the same as the film itself.
Again, the story is a bit cliched, but then kids seem to never tire of watching someone get slimed and the same concept applies to this film. This movie also projects a powerful, if not obvious, message about the importance of family and the negative effect divorce can have on a pair of once-happy kids—another reason parents won't totally be turned off by this film. Ice Cube, for his part, is a believable player turned father figure who was well cast for the role.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
No adult in their right mind should rent this film for themselves, and that can't be said for all children's films: think Shrek. Plus, Lindsey and Kevin aren't necessarily good role models, as they are rude to their mother and steal cars. They are just a few bad years away from underage drinking and run-ins with the law. Their hijinks aren't even especially creative. Furthermore, this movie relies on one's ability to suspend belief about reality. If you, or your kids, are the sort of film watchers who constantly assess scenes for their plausibility, this film is not for you. Even worse, the sneak peek of the sequel Are We Done Yet? shown before the movie, basically gives away the ending.
This movie is snow day (Christmas lights abound) therapy for cooped up kids. It has action, a message, and a feel-good ending.
Mostly Guilty. "Perfect" is such a strong word, and I'd be remiss if I allowed this movie to ride on its power. But I'd say this is a family film that's pretty good for everyone.
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Scales of Justice
• A Tour of Nick's Fine Sports Collectibles
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