RAISING HELEN isn't great, but, with Kate Hudson, it's cute enough. The story
of a busy professional woman who inherits a family, RAISING HELEN is another
comedy directed by the prolific Garry Marshall (PRETTY WOMAN, THE PRINCESS
When we meet Helen Harris (Hudson), she is a hotshot executive assistant at
Dominique's, the top modeling agency in New York. Going from one glamorous
extra-high heel event to another, Helen sweet talks her way into the most
popular clubs and restaurants in the city. Against her unbounded charm,
resistance is futile. She loves her high profile Manhattan lifestyle and
Meanwhile in the New Jersey suburbs, her two sisters, Jenny Portman (Joan
Cusack) and Lindsay Davis (Felicity Huffman), live what Jenny calls "a Pottery
Barn lifestyle." Jenny, who has a houseful of kids and another one whose
arrival is imminent, says proudly, "Being a mom is the greatest job on earth."
After Lindsay and her husband are killed in an accident, Helen is surprised to
find that Lindsay has left her three kids, Audrey, Henry and Sarah (Hayden
Panettiere, Spencer Breslin and Abigail Breslin), to be raised by Helen rather
than the obvious choice of supermom Jenny.
Although she tries to cope, Helen fails miserably at being both a mom and a
busy professional woman. As Helen's boss, Dominique (Helen Mirren), puts it
bluntly, "Fashion and family do not mix." This blatant putdown of the
possibilities of being a working mother is actually pretty ridiculous even if
it is presented humorously. Another implausibility in the story comes when
Helen realizes that Manhattan is too expensive for the size place they need to
live in, but, rather than choosing to commute from the kids' old home area in
New Jersey, she moves them into a somewhat questionable neighborhood in Queens.
When she finds the public schools in Queens too dangerous, she puts the kids
in a Lutheran school, which provides her with a new boyfriend in the dorky
headmaster known as Pastor Dan (John Corbett).
The kids have lots of issues, which Aunt Helen, growing up herself in the
process, helps them through. There are enough laughs along the way to make up
for the sappy last act which ends in a very predictable twist and double twist.
Hudson is a real trooper, who, exhibiting her usual high intensity charisma,
makes even a mediocre comedy worthwhile.
RAISING HELEN runs 1:55. It is rated PG-13 for "thematic issues involving
teens" and would be acceptable for kids around 7 and up.
Copyright © 2004 Steve Rhodes