Copyright, Touchstone Pictures
Prayer Focus
Movie Review

RAISING HELEN

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic issues involving teens

Reviewed by: Chris Monroe
STAFF WRITER

Better than Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens and Adults
Genre:
Comedy, Romance
Length:
1 hr. 37 min.
Year of Release:
2004
USA Release:
______
Featuring: Kate Hudson (Alex and Emma; How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days)
Abigail Breslin (Signs)
Spencer Breslin (Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat; The Santa Clause 2)
John Corbett (My Big Fat Greek Wedding)
Audrey Wells (Under the Tuscan Sun; Disney’s The Kid)
Director: Garry Marshall (The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement; The Princess Diaries; Runaway Bride; Dear God; Pretty Woman; Overboard)
Producer: Ashok Amritraj (Walking Tall), David Hoberman (Walking Tall)
Distributor: Touchstone Pictures
Copyright, Touchstone Pictures
Copyright, Touchstone Pictures
Copyright, Touchstone Pictures
Copyright, Touchstone Pictures
Copyright, Touchstone Pictures
Copyright, Touchstone Pictures
Copyright, Touchstone Pictures
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“Helen help us.”

Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “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.

No one doubts that Helen is the coolest aunt in New York, but what does this glamour girl know about raising kids? The fun begins as Helen goes through the transformation from super hip to super mom, but she quickly finds that dancing at 3 a.m. doesn’t mix with getting the kids to school on time advice that Helen’s older sisten, Jenny (Joan Cusack), is only to quick to dish out.

Along the way, Helen finds support in the most unusual place with Dan Parker (John Corbett), the handsome young pastor and principal of the kids’ new school and realizes the choice she has to make is between the life she always loved and the new loves of her life.”

Read our INTERVIEWS with the cast and director of “Raising Helen”


Review

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

Viewer Comments
Positive—Every once in awhile a truly heartwarming film comes along. Very few of them are about mothers, but “Raising Helen” manages to be both sweet and meaningful. It’s almost an ode to motherhood, a thank you to mothers everywhere for sacrificing so much for their children. It’s also a serious glimpse into the process of growing up. Our feelings leaving the theatre are a blend of warmth toward the mothers in our life, deeper understanding to their motivations and sacrifices, and the realization that motherhood is one of the most difficult but worthwhile things you can experience. There were a few mild objectionable elements but most are forgiven in the light that Helen is being transformed through them. I also loved the stance on abstinence presented to the teens, and how for once the “Christians” weren’t legalistic, judgmental Bible-thumpers, but as good, sensible, loving people who can actually smile and have fun.

The ultimate outcome is that family is worth everything, but motherhood isn’t to be sneered at. You’ll leave the theatre finally feeling understood if you’re a mom, and if you’re a daughter yet to have children, with a much clearer sense of what joy, tears, and frustration go into this full-time job. I took my mom and she loved it… make sure to take yours.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
Charity Bishop, age 21
Positive—I am also an aunt raising children from a loved one that passed away. This movie hit home. A lot of the things said and done in this movie are word for word from my home. Being a single mother to children that are not yours is a very hard job, but a joy also. This movie made me feel normal. I loved that it had some Christian influence also, that was unexpected. It reminded me that God is on my side, and I’m not alone.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/3½]
—Michelle, age 31
Positive—This movie should be a lesson to all those that think being a parent is easy. I never really stopped to think about what it takes to be a parent until I saw this. Raising Helen teaches about making sacrifices, being a loving person, while also learning to discipline. I found virtually no offensive material throughout the film, apart from a few curse words and a couple sexual implications. Other than that I found this movie to be quite wholesome. There were many morals to the story, including life lessons about friends, family, and making choices. I would recommend this movie to pretty much anyone, especially anyone who thinks being a parent is easy.
My Ratings: [Good/4]
—Brian, age 19
Positive—This movie was quite refreshing. Helen changes for the better and has to change her life to be a better role model and mother for her “children.” It was a good example that you can never predict what God is going to throw your way or why, but it is how you deal with it that ultimately matters. I loved this movie because she had a wholesome relationship with her minister boyfriend. Also when her niece is at a motel with some guy, they make it QUITE clear that this behavior is unacceptable, something you rarely see. Most of the time the attitude is “if it feels right for you” but not in this movie. Thoroughly enjoyable!
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4½]
—Catherine Harrold, age 18
Neutral—I went to this movie with DD19 and DD14. As Christians, it’s always interesting to see how people of faith are portrayed in secular films, and we were pretty pleased with how Pastor Dan was handled. On the other hand, what was he doing dating an obviously unsaved young lady? Altho Helen’s lifestyle changes drastically, this is because she is raising children, not apparently due to any spiritual conversion. Also, in some scenes where they were kissing, it was definitely open-mouthed and hot-n-heavy, and I question how far they would have gone if they had not been interrupted both times, esp. the time they were in her apt. together, one child was out and the other 2 were asleep. [Yes, I realize this film was not made by Christians, so they might not even be aware of these issues for believers, esp. the not being unequally yoked.] I am giving this a neutral, because I am positive with reservations, but not at all negative. We all enjoyed the movie and I would indeed recommend it to other Christians, with the proviso that they discuss these issues.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/3½]
—Jennifer A. Bowers, age 47
Positive—This movie was great. I felt satisfied after seeing it, which is sadly something I don’t always feel when exiting the cinema. A few questionable activities surrounded Helen’s previous lifestyle, but aside from that it is a story of starting new and experiencing life from a new angle. Great movie.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—Sarah B., age 20
Positive—I loved this movie! It was funny and sweet and romantic too! There wasn’t to much in it that I object to, maybe one or two words, but other than that, very good, made me cry! It was a loving and sweet movie. Good for girls night.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4½]
—Kriss, age 23
Positive—I thought the movie was great. I am not sure that I am ready to have my 10 year old daughter watch it yet. The teenage daughter being in a motel room with a boy was a little much.I would have to talk to her about that first. But I love the fact that we can watch a man of God dating.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—Lou, age 42

Comments from young people
Neutral—I think It was a okay movie! Not my Favorite! Kinda boring! There are a few objectionable parts! I think PG-13 is a good rating for this!
My Ratings: [Average/4½]
—Ashley, age 11
Positive—My family and I watched this movie together the other night. It was very cute. At first it started out sad, but ended happily. The only thing that bothered me was how Helen didn’t punish or yell at her teenage niece. Even though I am a teenager, I was bothered by this. I want my parents to be involved in everything I do. I feel like they care. God gave them the right to punish me when I do something wrong. I know that they punish me because they love me and don’t want me to make huge mistakes as a teenager or adult. I don’t want to either, so even though I am embarrassed when I get in trouble because I know I should have known better, I am glad later because I know I’ll be more careful of not doing it next time. Thankfully, before my parents and I jumped through the TV and shook the teenager, Helen took charge! Besides this issue, it was a great film. Not something to buy, but definitely to rent again.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—Adison, age 15
Positive—I liked this movie, it was very good, there were moral’s to the movie. Actually, I think this movie could almost pass as a PG rated movie. I didn’t think there was really anything that bad, except for 3 thing’s, mild thing’s. Audry, the teenager throw’s a party and invites a bunch of bad apples to her apartment, they are smoking and partying, and she’s wearing a skimpy outfit while there. Then. Now if you don’t want to know something from the movie, I suggest you don’t finish reading this. Audry and a boy that she was told not to go to the prom with takes her to a motel when they go together, but Helen’s sister comes in before anything happen’s, and rip’s them both to shreds. And there are some skimpy outfit’s, only a few, and Helen smokes at the beginning. Oh, and at the beginning she goes out with a man and they come back to her apartment, then they start kissing, and they walk in, then they fall backwards. As far as I’m concerned it has about the same amount of content in the movie “The prince and me” wich is PG. This movie is good. I liked so much I’ve watched it 4 times and I just bought like a day ago. It’s good, and if you have a young daughter, she could watch and enjoy it too.
My Ratings: [Good/4]
—MichelleBob, age 14
Positive—This movie was really good! Nothing was really offensive. This movie overall was very clean. But I will warn you it’s very sad at the beginning, but very funny as it goes on… This movie has very valuable lessons in it that I think every teen will appreciate. I loved this movie!
My Ratings: [Good/4½]
—Rachel, age 13
Positive—This movie was great!! It was funny and heartwarming. There were some bad things: Bad language was used about 5-6 times, teens smoking/drinking/partying, and Helen’s boyfriend saying “I’m a sexy man of God.” I would only allow teens+ to see this movie. I can’t wait to buy it!!
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
—Liz, age 14
Neutral—For me, Raising Helen seemed very SLOW. Yes, the story is touching, the acting is good, and it is a “cute” film, but after I saw it, I put it in my “one-time-see” category. Quite personally, I didn’t really think it was worth $7.00 to go see… I wished that I had waited until it came to the $3.00-per-ticket theater. If you want to see it, go for it; there isn’t a whole lot of objectionable material (a few bad words, some situations where “you know what’s going to happen” but nothing is shown.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/3]
—Kiera, age 16
Positive—This is definitely one of the best movies I’ve ever seen! One thing offended me though: the boyfriend “spending the night,” but you don’t see anything. Other than that its a GREAT movie!!! I know for sure we will buy and watch this MANY more times!! I’d recommend for tweens, teens, and adults!!
My Ratings: [Excellent!/4½]
—Ashley, age 11
Neutral—This movie is pretty cute actually! Helen does learn her lesson and her minister boyfriend is shown in a positive light (when was the last time someone with a religion was shown as anything other then a weird-o!?) The also deal with that annoying Audrey pretty well (although the words “wait until marriage” are never said). I did cry several times, and there are some funny moments. Still, the bad language could be left out, and I wish they would still bring in the “wait till marriage for sex” part. There is some other sexuality in the movie. Other than that, it’s surprisingly a lot better then the other movies of this genre!
My Ratings: [Average/3½]
—Noelle, age 16
Positive—…fantastic. There are two scenes which parents might object to young kids seeing, but nothing inappropriate for teens. This is very touching, and so funny. You will laugh and cry. Go see this movie if you are looking for a film that not only touches your heart, but makes you think about the ones you love. Its great!
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—Mariette, age 14
Positive—I liked this movie a lot! I thought that this movie wasn’t going to be all that great, because it was about a girl who learns how to raise kids. Later, I soon started to liking the movie. I didn’t see much hate, love, sex, nudity, or cursing in this movie. I thought that this was a really cute movie, and that every parent would probably want to watch this.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—Grace, age 13
Positive—…I was very impressed… However, there was still some content that I wouldn’t say my parents would approve of. Overall, though, it was a good movie with a positive theme, and it will be one that I am sure my mom, and I will watch again.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
—Jordan, age 13
Positive—This movie is a must see for people who like romantic comedies like “Runaway Bride” and “How to lose a guy in 10 days.” It was very cute and had a good message, the best since “A Walk To Remember.” The pastor was very cool, smart, funny and handsome. At first Helen thinks the whole pastor thing is weird, but then he says I’m a sexy man of God and I know it. I liked that because he didn’t have to compromise anything. I wish it did say something about waiting until marriage, but it’s obvious that the characters imply it. I look forward to it coming on video!
My Ratings: [Good/4]
—Lexi, age 15
Positive—I LOVED this movie! It was cute, sweet, and very convicting. It really makes you think about your loved ones… what if they died and never came back? The daughter of the mother that died was about my age so it made me think a lot. There is some thematic elements involved (inappropriate for children) but for tweens and teens it should be fine.
My Ratings: [Good/4]
—Cara, age 13
Positive—Wow! This movie was amazing! I thought it was really cool that I could go see a movie that actually had a good plot, well acting characters, and not that much profanity etc. There was some however. And just as a warning to parents, you may want to see it first before allowing children 13 and younger to see it. There are some scenes you might call objectionable. But other than that, very clean compared to most movies put out today, and really, a heart touching story.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4½]
—Lana, age 15
Movie Critics
…Romantic, stylish, and downright funny…
—Baptist Press
…Perfect! Adorable! Incredible cast!…
—Charisma Magazine
…A shiny, happy take on a young woman’s unlikely motherhood…
—Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter
…an adorable dramedy riddled with laughter, love, and family-oriented messages…
—Erin Wilhelm, Parents Television Council