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Raising Helen

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Raising Helen

Starring: Kate Hudson, John Corbett
Director: Garry Marshall
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 115 Minutes
Release Date: May 2004
Genres: Comedy, Romance

*Also starring: Joan Cusack, Helen Mirren, Hector Elizondo, Amber Valletta, Felicity Huffman, Abigail Breslin, Spencer Breslin, Hayden Panettiere, Kamilla Bjorlin, Ana Gasteyer, Alec Nemser

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

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 DIARIES, etc.).

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 convenient apartment.

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

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