One year on (in movie time) from the action of 2005's Are We There Yet?, sports-memorabilia salesman Nick Persons (Ice Cube) has sold his business, launched a magazine, and moved his newlywed bride (Nia Long) and two pouty, foul-tempered stepkids into his cramped Portland apartment. Whereupon the unexpected arrival of a bun in the oven prompts a relocation to the bucolic countryside and a too-good-to-be-true fixer-upper that quickly proves to be exactly that. Fans of the first film can rest assured that a change in the director's chair -- Dr. Doolittle 2 auteur Steve Carr taking over for the presumably indisposed Brian Levant -- has done little to curb the overall tone of slapstick desperation, as the game-faced Mr. Cube does battle with the forces of nature, power tools, and a raft of risible ethnic caricatures. Reportedly, this is all a remake of the popular 1948 Cary Grant comedy Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, though I'll be damned if I can remember the scene where Grant chased a CGI raccoon across his roof and crashed through to the porch below, only to look up and see the little bugger waving back at him tittering, "Ha ha, sucker!" -- Scott Foundas
Rated PG. Opens Wednesday.
Not quite disturbingly forlorn, but forlorn (and overly literal) just the same, this latest entry in the doggy-acrobat subgenre of canine comedies has but one joke, and it comes early: In the Idol age, celebrity culture has gone to the dogs -- literally. Pampered terrier Rexxx, star of Jurassic Bark et al., commands his own on-set trailer (not to mention the bitches), but falls from the top -- again, literally -- when a failed skydiving stunt lands him in rotten tomatoes (literally!). Then (ho-hum) Shane (Josh Hutcherson), a 12-year-old vid-gamer and skate kid whose unmarried dad (Bruce Greenwood) is a fire department captain, stumbles upon the "mutt from hell," with his terrible "mouth fart," and watches flabbergasted as the mongrel shows an amazing aptitude for hyper-obsessive housecleaning and rescuing people from burning buildings. (The cut-rate fire FX appear ported from Shane's trusty PSP.) "Bad to the Bone" gets spun, and Rexxx eventually makes his way down the fire pole, but the movie never goes off leash. Indeed, my four-year-old, a far more forgiving dog-film lover than Dad, mustered not a single laugh. Page two of the press kit tellingly attributes the dour screenplay to a "dog movie mandate," presumably by Fox. Woo-hoo! Let's hear it for family entertainment! -- Rob Nelson
Rated PG. Opens Wednesday.
Destiny is as loophole-free as an IRS audit in this appointment-in-Samarra yarn from Children of Men screenwriters Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, in which cocky salesman Jimmy Starks (Guy Pearce) risks the love of his doting girlfriend (Piper Perabo), not to mention his life and sanity, to avoid a fortune teller's ominous reading. The presence of Memento's Pearce, the poster boy for narrative dislocation, would seem to herald yet another gimmicky puzzle movie about the interconnectedness of every speck of dust as well as the hair-trigger whims of the space-time continuum. But first-time director Fergus' film is more a moody, tedious anti-thriller about ineluctable fate, keyed to the hero's dawning acceptance of an inverted bumper-sticker truism: "You die, but life doesn't have to be a bitch." Speaking of fate, is it written somewhere that every indie quasi-noir must include a dripping faucet, ceiling fans, shadows of slatted blinds, and a traveling shot of highway lines? As surely as Fergus' establishing shot of the desert must begin with a tumbleweed. -- Jim Ridley
Rated R. Opens Friday at the Cedar Lee Theatre.
Those two age-old foes -- science and blind faith -- tango yet again in this noxious slice of biblical horror about a series of Old Testament plagues being visited upon a Louisiana bayou backwater. Hilary Swank stars as the resident nonbeliever, an ordained minister turned university professor recruited by a rural schoolteacher (David Morrissey) to convince the locals that there's a perfectly rational explanation (global warming?) for why their once crystalline lake has turned into a crimson tide pool. In short order, frogs rain from the heavens, bad CGI cattle drop dead in their tracks, and hideous boils break out on human skin, until Swank starts to wonder if maybe she was wrong to turn her back on the Lord after her husband and daughter were killed on a missionary trip to the Sudan. (Cue overexposed flashbacks of ooga-booga tribesmen.) Two years ago, Paul Schrader's uneven-but-compelling Exorcist prequel used the trappings of a genre film to explore complex questions of belief (or lack thereof) in a seemingly godless world. For Reaping director Stephen Hopkins (Predator 2), the plight of post-Katrina Louisiana and war-torn Africa is just another special effect in a bag of shopworn tricks, and the only real curse is on anyone unlucky enough to buy a ticket. -- Foundas
Rated R. Opens Thursday.