Using the 1969 Apollo 11 space mission that landed man on the moon for the first time as its starting point Fly Me to the Moon seamlessly blends a nice message about achieving your dreams with an amusing story centering on three “fly” guys on a mission to become the first insects on the moon. Young Nat (Trevor Gagnon) inspired by his grandfather’s (Christopher Lloyd) tall tales about rescuing Amelia Earhart as she made her historic flight across the Atlantic decides to recruit two friends--IQ (Philip Daniel Bolden) and Scooter (David Gore)--to secretly board Apollo 11 just before it takes off on its history-making expedition to the moon. When they are discovered on board they are placed in a test tube for later scientific study. But problems with the ship’s engine enable them to escape and they manage to lend a helping wing that allows the mission to continue. That is until trouble rears its head in the form of grandpa’s old love Nadia (Nicollette Sheridan) who arrives from Russia with news that the Russians plan to sabotage the mission using evil spy fly Yegor (Tim Curry) to stop it in its tracks. Gagnon Bolden and Gore handle their vocal assignments well making believable flies who want to get to the moon. Basically they play it like 6 year-olds and there’s nothing wrong with that considering the target audience is just about that age. Lloyd is a delight as the old codger Grandpa fly who has lots of tales to tell and tells them often. Kelly Ripa and Adrienne Barbeau ably play two of the fly moms who become alarmed when they discover their “kids” have just been launched into the stratosphere. There’s also good villainous work from Tim Curry as the heavy Yegor out to destroy the mission and Ed Begley Jr. as another Russian Poopchev. Best treat of all is the late inning appearance by Buzz Aldrin one of the original Apollo 11 astronauts who turns up to give a pep talk and throw in a disclaimer that flies could never stowaway on any moon mission just in case someone in the audience mistakes this for a NASA documentary. As the first animated film ever to be completely shot in the Real D or 3D format Fly Me To The Moon achieves some first-rate effects using the advancing digital technology so effectively you just may feel you can reach out and swat one of those flies who come right at you in the film’s opening scene. Director Ben Stassen uses his background in large format films and specialized 3D imagery to leap into the full length Real D feature film business with this sweet treat for kids and even the older family members who may have fond memories of the moon shot nearly 40 years ago. Similar in some ways to the recent Space Chimps but more fun to watch Stassen employs 3D as an integral part of the story rather than just having characters throw stuff at the audience like a lot of these films do. Expect more three-dimensional ‘toons if this succeeds and why shouldn’t it? Fly Me To The Moon soars taking the 3D experience to new heights.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before. A man rushes into buying the perfect house in the suburbs so he can raise his family. Only he soon discovers he’s overpaid for a death trap that will require big bucks to renovate. Yes Are We Done Yet? is another remake of Cary Grant’s 1948 classic comedy Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. While the prospect of Ice Cube stuck in a house of horrors seems like an appropriate way to trump the road trip from hell that was Are We There Yet? this sequel isn’t an upgrade on Tom Hanks’ 1986 Blandings redo The Money Pit. But that won’t matter to the kids who laughed at the slow and painful destruction of Ice Cube’s beloved SUV. Now they’ll squeal with delight as Ice Cube—finally married to Nia Long who’s pregnant with his twin babies—tries to replace the leaky roof he’s put over the heads of his ungrateful stepchildren (Aleisha Allen and Philip Bolden). “I can fix that ” Ice Cube says after breaking something. Too bad no one took a crack at fixing a script that fails to puts a modern-day spin on the suburban angst Cary Grant endured 60 years ago. As a founding member of 1980s gangsta rap group N.W.A. Ice Cube made his bones scaring the living daylight out of white middle-class Americans. Now he’s entertaining their grandkids with innocuous family-friendly farces that once were Eddie Murphy’s bread and butter. You can’t blame Ice Cube for building upon his comedy franchises Barbershop and Friday especially as he’s failed in his bid to be an action hero. But unlike The Pacifier which Vin Diesel employed to poke fun at his tough-guy image this kid-conscious franchise makes Ice Cube look softer than a life-size teddy bear. Sure he’s man enough to more of a beating than he did the first time out as Nick Persons but the scowling Ice Cube looks as uncomfortable bearing the brunt of these Home Alone-style humiliations as he does working with children and animals. Not so with John C. McGinley the film’s lone source of amusement. He seems thrilled to be out of his doctor Scrubs and hamming it up as a happy-go-lucky man of many hats including realtor construction manager and midwife. Speaking of giving birth Nia Long doesn’t have anything to do other than to exude the glow of an expectant mother. Unfortunately Long’s onscreen kids Aleisha Allen and Philip Bolden don’t have much to do either. They were the driving force behind Ice Cube’s road rage in Are We There Yet? Now they barely get up to any mischief. And the better behaved they are the less enjoyable Are We Done Yet? is. Are We Done Yet? began life as a Blandings remake before Ice Cube et al. retooled it as this plain and predictable sequel. So that may explain why Allen and Bolden are no longer the cause of Ice Cube’s physical abuse. That’s a shame as the antagonistic relationship they once shared made Are We There Yet? somewhat tolerable. Director Steve Carr clearly has no interest in exploring Ice Cube’s new role as a stepfather not even if it results in more concussions. Then again Carr’s there to merely serve as a one-man wrecking crew. He dutifully tears down Ice Cube’s house but he doesn’t do it with much panache or originality. You just know Ice Cube will hit rock bottom when he tries to fall asleep while rain pours through his roofless house. At least Carr—who also directed such mediocre sequels as Dr. Dolittle 2 and Ice Cube’s Next Friday—has the good sense not to bring back the Tracy Morgan-voiced Satchel Paige bobblehead doll from Are We There Yet? And he does wrap up the proceedings with a welcome nod to the chaos Ice Cube endured on that long drive. Still by the time Ice Cube steps foot in the dream house he’s built you’re hoping that the trials and tribulations of his battered and bruised Nick Persons are indeed over and done with.
Smooth-talking operator Nick Persons (Ice Cube) is trying to land a date with Suzanne Kingston (Nia Long) a young attractive single mom. We know he's smooth from the moment he strides onto the screen flashing his cocky smile his blingage and his playa' attitude. Although Nick has sworn to never date a woman with children Suzanne is special. We know she's special because she gets Nick to stop his car in the rain for her. That's true love right there because Nick loves his car more than anything else. But when Suzanne miserable on a business trip in Vancouver wants her kids to visit her Nick gamely offers to make her wish come true (and his own in the process) by driving the children himself from Oregon to Canada. What Nick doesn't know is that 7-year old Kevin (Philip Daniel Bolden) and his sister 11-year old Lindsey (Aleisha Allen) think that no man is good enough for their mom and they will do everything they can to make the trip a nightmare for him. In spite of their best efforts to sabotage their journey wreck Nick's car and send him packing both Lindsey and Kevin realize that Nick just may be the father they've been hoping for. And Nick realizes that maybe just maybe he could be a family man after all. But you saw that one coming right?
Are We There Yet? gives usually hard-as-nails Ice Cube a chance to display his softer comedic side which he does to great effect. He's truly charming and when he turns on his million-watt smile he's absolutely adorable. Plus he's great with the kids! Who knew? Nia Long's single mother is (for a change) not down on her luck but she isn't given much to do other than stand around looking worried. Funnyman Jay Mohr is also sadly underused as the token-white guy/best friend who plays basketball with the guys and gets to say things like "You've got to dump her because you're stuck in the Friend Zone!" Actress Nichelle Nichols--better known as Lt. Cmdr. Uhura on the original Star Trek--makes a hilarious cameo as Long's babysitter who may have taken one too many trips to Vegas. As for the youngest members of the cast Bolden (Johnson Family Vacation) and Allen (School of Rock) don't have a lot to do other than serve as composites of every annoying child you've ever met; the picky kid who won't eat orange food the sickly kid who's always looking for his inhaler the infuriating smart-mouth who doesn't know when to shut up the crybaby etc. etc. etc. All these traits packed into only two children can be enough to make you weep. Good thing Saturday Night Live alum Tracy Morgan is there to give advice as the voice of the bobble-headed dashboard doll fashioned after legendary baseball star Satchell Paige. Paige gets to serve as a sort of all-knowing sage who offers pithy observations as the action unfolds.
They say it's hard to work with animals and children and since the bulk of this film involves only Ice Cube and the two kids director Brian Levant (Snow Dogs) had his work cut out for him. Add to that the fact that there are a couple of actual animal scenes in the film and you have to admire Levant's courage. To his credit Levant is able to create a fast frenetic film full of wacky adventures and visual set-pieces that do add up to a satisfying payoff at the end. Like the car trip in the film however sometimes the journey is more important than the destination. Levant's broad strokes might be more suited to the children in the audience rather than the adults who are there with them. Although much has been made of Ice Cube playing "against type" in this mainstream family comedy chances are that the kids in the audience will have no idea what Ice Cube's type is let alone whether he's playing against it or not. I mean really how many 8-year olds will have seen Boyz 'N the Hood? Nevertheless parents can rest easy knowing that their children are in pretty good hands for 89 minutes.