I'm not a movie snob. I swear. If a movie succeeds in what it is attempting, that's fineeven if it's just attempting to be a pleasant, cliché-ridden diversion for kids.
But this movie doesn't work on any level. Ice Cube as Nick is the best thing in this movie, and he is barely tolerable. The kids' mom is a nonentity. The two kids either can't act or were at the mercy of a wretched director. Having seen the little girl who played Lindsey, Aleisha Allen, in the infinitely better School of Rock, I suspect it is the latter.
The basic plot is workable, if unoriginal. Divorced mom and dad, kids want them to get back together, new potential boyfriend for the mom, and a road trip thrown in for good measure. Played right, it would have been sweet and funny. In this movie, it's stupid and painful. As a previous reviewer mentioned, by the time the kids find out the truth about their dad, they've spent so much of the movie being mean-spirited little brats that it's hard to feel bad for them. These over-the-top kid-on-adult violent antics worked in Home Alone (which was liberally, ahem, borrowed from) because there the kid was basically good, and the "enemies" were bad guys. In Are We There Yet?, the adult victim is essentially a nice guy, and the kidsnot so much.
The emotional switches of this movie don't ring true, either. Nick goes from (understandably) severely NOT liking these kids to loving them in the blink of an eye. Same weird switch at the end for the mom, as she goes from liking Nick to mistrusting him to loving him in the space of a few minutes.
A few more things (yes, I'm being nitpicky, but this movie deserves it ... plus, it's the only joy I'll get out of watching the darn thing): when Lindsey sings, the plot device to get her on stage is so incredibly transparent and tacked-on that you can see a bunch of guys sitting around a table going, "Hey, Aleisha Allen can sing. Can we write a scene into this movie where she sings?" Also, logically, I have to ask myself, WHERE DID THE BACKUP MUSIC COME FROM??? One more question. Why is it that the CGI for the Satchel Paige bobblehead was so goodthat and Ice Cube are why I gave this movie even two starsand yet the the attack deer looks like a piñata? If, after reading this review, you still decide to see the moviewell, don't blame me if you want to rip out your own eyeballs before it's half over. You've been warned.
I have to go lie down now.