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Raising Helen (2004)
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Review Date: May 26, 2004
Director: Garry Marshall
Writer: Jack Amiel, Michael Begler
Producers: Ashok Amritraj
Actors:
Kate Hudson as Helen
Joan Cusack as Jenny
John Corbett as Pastor Dan
Plot:
A free-wheelin' social butterfly with no strings attached but her G, finds herself in the middle of an enormous life change when her sister and husband are killed in an accident and she is left to care for their three children. What ensues is one woman's attempt to raise kids on her own.
Critique:
This film is about as trite and predictable as they come, but doesn't completely suck, thanks mostly to the ongoing charm and good looks of star Kate Hudson, the quirkiness of John Corbett and the presence of Joan Cusack. That said, the film plays about as close to a television sitcom as you can get, with barely any noticeable moments of actual dilemma, confrontation or believable conflict, with everyone coasting on their merry way, particularly the lead character of the newfound mother of three, who we are supposed to identify with someone who is "in over their head", but who is never really put into a position of having to deal with serious issues, and whose biggest challenge with the new kids is teaching one of them how to tie their shoelaces without crying. I guess we couldn't really expect much more from the king of generic filmmaking, Garry Marshall, who also makes sure to include enough musical montage sequences to pad the film close to two hours and who doesn't really bring any real insight or emotional backbone to the story, which also feels choppily edited, quickly shot and extremely familiar to anyone who caught Kevin Smith's JERSEY GIRL earlier this year. The main difference between the two films being that Smith's picture actually connected some tangible sentiment and believability to its lead character, while this film just punches its time-clock and makes sure that nobody in the audience is stirred by anything remotely provocative or interesting.

I only saw this film about an hour ago and I've already forgotten most of it. Other than one cute "date" scene, in which Corbett asks Hudson out for the first time, the film doesn't provide for any real laughs either, with only a handful of chuckles making their way into the final print. On the serious side of things, a couple of confrontation scenes between Hudson and Cusack don't work, and actually showed me where Hudson's acting skills may be lacking. She might need to take a role of greater substance after all of these "cutesy" parts. That said, she does continue to hold up the Goldie Hawn "great ass" gene, a quality that the filmmakers didn't mind exploiting for the film's eye-catching poster. Unlike the great sequence with Ben Affleck in the aforementioned JERSEY GIRL, no sober scenes dealing with the loss of the parents is ever delved into either, taking us even further away from the characters and their emotions. I wanted to feel their pain! Oddly enough, the film's first half was actually weaker and less engaging than its second half, which managed to pull me in a little, but even then, not in any major way. One particular emotional backlash between Hudson and Corbett is actually resolved during a...musical montage! That's right, the audience isn't even given any dialogue to explain the resolution. In the end, I can't say that there was anything entertaining enough in this film to recommend to anyone other than your average soccer mom with time to kill between her kids' practices. I love mothers as much as the next guy (oh boy, do I ever!), but they deserve a lot more credit than this dinky film tries to pass off, and so do your hard-earned bucks. A late night, cheapie, fourth-video rental with your girl...if that!
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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