A lackluster variation on the National Lampoon vacation formula,
video director Christopher Erskin's first feature is more likely to have viewers whining "Are we there yet?" than sitting back to enjoy the ride. California-based insurance salesman Nate Johnson (Cedric the Entertainer) just wants to take a relaxing cross-country trip with his wife and three kids, culminating at the annual Missouri reunion of Johnsons from all across the country. There, Nate hopes to win the coveted Family of the Year trophy away from his competitive brother, Mack (Steve Harvey), and Mack's apparently perfect clan. But that's easier said than done: For one thing, Nate and his wife, Dorothy (Vanessa Williams), are separated, a fact he's been keeping from his elderly mama (Aloma Wright). For another, teenaged Nikki (Solange Knowles) is distraught over disrupting her social life and little sister Destiny (Gabby Soleil) worries that her imaginary puppy will be forgotten at home. The only one who seems enthusiastic about the trip is middle child D.J. (Bow Wow), who's thrilled that a mix-up at the custom-auto shop transformed Nate's boring Lincoln Navigator into a tricked-out, fully loaded ride. Nate eventually shoos his brood into the car, but they get on the road later than his meticulous itinerary allowed for. Nate compensates by taking a short cut that leads to a run-in with a vicious 18-wheeler, a bizarre encounter with a lusty concierge, a clash with a highway patrolman and a spell with a witchy hitcher (Shannon Elizabeth). Throughout, Nate dreams of reconciling with Dorothy, who kicked him out after he refused to support her decision to go back to college. And as they near Missouri and the end of their forced confinement, the family bands together to take on smug Uncle Mack and his too-good-to-be-true kin. Sibling screenwriters Todd R. and Earle Richey Jones might have been better off if they'd been asked to write "Johnson Family Reunion," since the movie finally gets on track when ORIGINAL KINGS OF COMEDY alumni Cedric and Harvey let loose with their trademark easy banter and raucous rivalry. But for most of the film, Cedric seems to be holding back, though his relationship with genuinely charming rapper-turned-actor (Lil') Bow Wow offers up a few funny moments, and their argument over music dead competitors include Biggie and Tupac vs. Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye is one of the film's few highlights.
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- Released: 2004
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: A lackluster variation on the National Lampoon vacation formula, video director Christopher Erskin's first feature is more likely to have viewers whining "Are we there yet?" than sitting back to enjoy the ride. California-based insurance salesman Nate Jo… (more)