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Overall Rating
2.56

Awesome: 9.3%
Worth A Look: 4.65%
Average39.53%
Pretty Bad: 25.58%
Total Crap: 20.93%

3 reviews, 25 user ratings



Raising Helen
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by Jason Whyte

"'Pastor Dan just asked me out!' 'I can hear you!' That's comic GENIUS! Not."
2 stars

Gary Marshall is a likable guy and appears to have lots of fun on his movie sets, so why is the audience not sharing in the fun? "Raising Helen" is yet another entry into Marshall's resume that has a few cute scenes, some witty one-liners and the usual array of cameo performances, but is derivitave, uninspired and it has John Corbett, whom you may remember as that bland groom in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." (It's also unbearably long, but the mere presence of Mr. Corbett sticks out more.) This movie is nothing new to the comedy genre. What "Raising Helen" does have, however, is a fine lead performance by Kate Hudson.

You all know her. "Goldie Hawn's daughter", some mention. "That's Penny Lane from "Almost Famous"!!" others say. Kate's a force to be reckoned with. When the movie opens, we see her as Helen, an executive assistant to the top agency in New York. She's young, sexy and quite a departure from all of the agents and publicists I've met with in the past. Of course, she's also not married ("Agents and kids don't mix!", a character quips) but has the occasional tryst from time to time. Her sister, Jenny (Joan Cusack) is a married mom with three kids, living in a two-story in suburbia.

The film's few opening scenes develop the relationship between Helen, Jenny and older sister Lindsay (Felicity Huffman) as well as Helen's friendly relationship with niece Audrey (Hayden Panettiere) and the younger Sarah (Abigail Breslin) and Henry (Spencer Breslin) while celebrating Lindsay's birthday. As is the case with many of these kinds of movies (and many episodes of "Full House" have taught me growing up), these kinds of parties where the characters are dancing to Devo's "Whip It" and they're wearing red buckets on their head early on in the film, somebody's going to die before the next reel.

Lindsay and her husband Paul (Sean O'Bryan) suddenly die in a car crash, which shocks the entire family. What shocks the family even more is Lindsay and Paul's will has left Helen with custody of the children. Helen thinks that Jenny should have them. Quips Helen: "She's the mom! She has the mom haircut!" This sets the film off onto the next act, where Helen is suddenly a fish-out-of-water with three cute kids to take care of. The responsibility of the kids basically ends Helen's PR job and out of her apartment, and into a shanty in Queens. The film then plods along from Helen getting a job at a small car dealership, to a falling out with her and Jenny, and then to some weakly developed subplots involving the children, and then to the awkward love interest, Pastor Dan (John Corbett).

The recent movie "Jersey Girl" dealed with some of the same subject matter. In that film, Ben Affleck's character lost his wife and was saddled with a baby and then ruining his life. And he wants to go back to the life of a PR, even though he had a 7 year old girl to attend to. In this film, Helen wants to move out of the shanty Queens apartment and back into her agency office, even if there are three implausible kids left in tow. The problem I have with this kind of storyline is the main character always goes for the kid(s) and not for the job as if to say that having a top, successful job that you worked for means nothing. Sure, I am a firm believer of family mattering, but I don't think it's too out of the question for a successful business person to want a very good job back.

Despite the film's lack of originality and grounding on reality, Kate Hudson is very good here as Helen. Hudson is gifted in disappearing into many of the roles she portrays, and she nails everything the character demands. She's so good here that you can't help but feel that she's being wasted, that she could shine her talents in a much better story. Joan Cusack is also an actor who tends to make me smile a bit whenever she shows up on screen, and her time is limited to fights with Helen. And the bland John Corbett is even blander here as Pastor Dan, who shows up right when a cute jokey line needs to be said and has zero chemistery with Kate Hudson.

As for the kids, what's surprising is how detached we are from them. They seem to have such little screen time and so few lines that we rarely care about them. Hayden Panettiere, whom you might remember as the adorable Football-loving tomboy in "Remember The Titans", is good as the older sister Audrey, whose friendly ways with Helen get tested. When Audrey goes into party-girl mode, there's a conflict scene with her and Jenny in a hotel room that is surprisingly weak; maybe the movie didn't want to venture down that darker path of what could have happened, but I felt the film should have taken that turn (the studio, desperate for a "PG" rating, I'm sure disagree with me). As the younger kids, siblings Spencer and Abigail Breslin are as adorable as cute kids can be in a Disney film, and would be more notable if they actually talked a bit more.

So there it is. A disposable comedy, made for people who like the same kind of formulaic diatribe that gets thrown into cinemas every few months for us to digest. If you know Gary Marshall's work ("Pretty Woman", "The Princess Diaries", "Runaway Bride"), you have a pretty good idea of what to expect here. I have, however, recommended the recent "13 Going on 30" which I do feel is likable and with an irresistable appeal to everyone, despite a complete lack of reality. But it does have heart, and "Raising Helen" runs tedium over two hours long.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=9177&reviewer=350
originally posted: 05/28/04 15:10:43
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This film is available for download or online viewing at CinemaNow.com For more in the CinemaNow.com series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Tribeca Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Tribeca Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/23/13 Monday Morning Kate Hudson - va-va-va-vooom! What a babe! To die for! Yee-haaaa! 4 stars
12/19/09 art GOD AWFUL! 1 stars
10/24/08 Farnsy 2 and a half stars? You cant be serious! 4 stars
8/20/08 PAUL SHORTT A HEARTWARMING COMEDY THAT MAKES YOU THINK AS WELL AS LAUGH 3 stars
1/19/08 Pamela White cute but nothing to write home about 3 stars
6/30/07 johnnyfog Bland. No originality at all. 2 stars
9/09/05 love nothing new to see, much to long movie! 3 stars
8/22/05 Naka God, FUCKING ATROCIOUS. 1 stars
5/12/05 Beardog8 I've seen worst, but bad script...unoriginal characters...and why is Kate Hudson a star? 2 stars
5/01/05 ed.williams Mildly entertaining, good for a night when nothing else is on. 3 stars
1/04/05 tatum I loved this film, back when they called it "Baby Boom" with Diane Keaton 1 stars
10/26/04 tina its ok but same as his other films we want some thing new not the same themes 1 stars
10/17/04 Doc Shock Re-hashed tripe. 2 stars
9/26/04 lindsay i thought that it was a good sweey movie 5 stars
8/25/04 taylor smith it was really good 5 stars
8/07/04 i failed a lutheran blood test Too much of it sentimental schlock. BZ deserves better than megabrat Audrey. 3 stars
8/04/04 Collin Kate Hudson's carear begins a Countdown to Extinction 1 stars
6/07/04 Reid Cornelius bad, with a capital BAD 2 stars
6/01/04 KCobain Horrid. 1 stars
5/31/04 Jin Hudson's slump continues with this stinker. 1 stars
5/31/04 Ajax Booo-ring. 1 stars
5/30/04 Idiot's Mouth Does anyone else think Kate Hudson looks like an alien crossed with a scrunchy-faced dog? 1 stars
5/29/04 "JJ" Jones Loved the movie!! Kate Hudson and Joan Cusack were awesome. 5 stars
5/17/04 intelligent single woman Dealt greatly with death, romance great, kids are adorable, great laughs from Kate----yay! 5 stars
5/10/04 Ray Please, what a cliché!!! 2 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  28-May-2004 (PG)
  DVD: 12-Oct-2004

UK
  N/A

Australia
  03-Jun-2004 (PG)




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