Reviewed by: Chris Monroe
Better than Average
Teens and Adults
1 hr. 37 min.
Year of Release:
“Helen help us.”
Producer’s synopsis: “In this heartwarming comedy from Director Garry Marshall (‘Runaway Bride,’ ‘The Princess Diaries’), Helen Harris (Kate Hudson) is living the life she always dreamed of. Her career at a top Manhattan modelling agency is on the rise; she spends her days at fashion shows and her nights at the city’s hottest clubs. But here carefree lifestyle comes to a screeching halt when one phone call changes everything. Helen soon finds herself responsible for her sister’s children 15-year-old Audrey, 10-year-old Henry, and 5-year-old Sarah.
Read our INTERVIEWS with the cast and director of “Raising Helen”
A dual meaning in the title “Raising Helen” works appropriately in a family film / romantic comedy kind of way, with our main character wreaking havoc, while she in turn matures into a responsible adult. Even her name, Helen, seems to be a combination of “hell” and “heaven,” of which this character more or less experiences both extremes while rising to become a better person.
Helen Harris (Kate Hudson, “Almost Famous”) is a single, successful professional living alone in Manhattan enjoying her life and all her freedom. When Helen’s sister, Lindsay (Felicity Huffman) and her husband die in an auto accident, Helen and her other sister, Jenny (Joan Cusack) discover that it is Lindsay’s wish for Helen to raise the children she left behind. Helen’s decision to do it not only incites conflict with Jenny, but leads her to losing her job, her nice apartment, working at a used car dealership, forsaking her usual nightlife and coping with more responsibility than she can handle. Although it was difficult to determine exactly why she decides to raise the kids, her decision has nevertheless humbled her beyond what she expected.
An interesting facet to this story is the Lutheran pastor, Dan (John Corbett, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”) that Helen meets when she and the kids move to into their new neighborhood in Queens. While Helen’s life is in upheaval, Pastor Dan provides stability—and eventually romance—to her life. Besides an obscure scene where Pastor Dan is called upon to bless the animals at the Central Park Zoo, he is presented as a very normal guy who is personally invested in the people of his church. He is clearly a positive, godly influence in Helen’s life, which is even alluded to when Helen refers to him as her “savior” after he bails her out of trouble.
While Pastor Dan is shown as a respectable figure, they also try to make him human and relatable. They have also decided to have some fun with his character and create some comedy around his role. He explains to Helen that even though he is a pastor, he is still allowed to marry. He cracks a joke about being able to watch dirty movies, too, but then explains he is only kidding. But most of this humor is done in good taste, and not meant derogatorily towards clergy. For example, Pastor Dan is also part of a community hockey team where he is playfully referred to as the “holy goalie.”
LANGUAGE and SEXUALITY—There are a few foul words used throughout the film as well as a scene involving a lingerie fashion show. There is a scene in the beginning of the film before Helen “converts” to her selfless lifestyle, where her boyfriend stays the night at her apartment, implying that they sleep together. This, of course, is contrasted with her relationship with Pastor Dan, with whom she only goes so far as to kiss. The more objectionable scenes seem very mild, and I guess that would be expected when the director is Gary Marshall (Runaway Bride, The Princess Diaries) who is also the creator of such family fare as “Happy Days” and “Laverne and Shirley”.
POSITIVE ELEMENTS—Clearly, this story is about a person’s repentance from being a self-centered individual to one who learns to give selflessly of herself and love. I really like the ideas presented in the script, especially the bold idea of casting a likeable pastor as the romantic lead. The script held a lot of potential, but it felt like some of the effectiveness was lost in the execution. Marshall still has some great touches, such as with the closet scene at the funeral. Seeing the kids huddled close consoling each other really gripped me, but I just wish this kind of effectiveness would have spilled out into the rest of the movie.
This film is very playful, yet coherent, and tells a sweet kind of uplifting story. It upholds good morals and even carries with it some touching moments. Seeing this movie is an easy-going way to raise your spirits.
Violence: None / Profanity: Mild / Sex/Nudity: Mild