Raising Helen

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner23/08/2004

One out of Five stars
Running time: 119 mins

Cliché-ridden, manipulative, overlong and desperately sentimental rubbish from director Garry Marshall – forget raising Helen; she should have been strangled at birth.

In Hell’s Multiplex, movies like Raising Helen are playing on a continuous loop. Garry Marshall has made a career out of glossy-looking, sentimental, inoffensive movies, but Raising Helen represents a new low even for him. Similarly, it may prove the nail in the coffin for Kate Hudson’s career – it’s no surprise she has recently announced she’s ready to quit movies for motherhood after a succession of stinkers such as Le Divorce, Alex & Emma (straight to video) and now this.

Woman Inherits Sisters Children

Hudson plays Helen Harris, the executive assistant to Dominique (Helen Mirren, hang your head in shame), the high-powered boss of a modeling agency. Helen is content to live the free-spirited high life, until her older sister Lindsay (Felicity Huffman) and brother-in-law are killed in a car accident, leaving her their three children (stroppy teen Hayden Panettiere, chubby middle kid Spencer Breslin and younger sister Abigail Breslin) in their will.

This causes Helen all manner of problems at work and she has to decide whether to put her career first or become a mother to the children. Ho hum.

The story seems particularly pointless because Helen has another sister, Jenny (Joan Cusack), who is already a perfect mother with a) room in her huge house and b) kids of her own. So, naturally, Jenny is upset because Lindsay left the kids to Helen, blah blah blah. And if all that wasn’t enough syrup to slog through, Helen also falls for sexy ‘Pastor Dan’ (John Corbett in full-on NiceGuy mode). No prizes, then, for guessing how it all turns out.

Hudson Depressingly Bland

One of the main problems with Raising Helen is Hudson herself. She’s cute, certainly, but she’s also depressingly bland. In addition, she’s out-acted by every single other member of the cast, particularly the two small children, who are both adorable (Spencer Breslin and Abigail Breslin are real-life siblings).

The film also horribly miscasts Joan Cusack (a gifted comic actress) in a role where she’s required to be miserable and frustrated throughout – you spend the whole movie hoping for a glimpse of the Joan Cusack you know and love, but it never comes.

The other problem is that the film itself is so cynically manipulative – you can imagine the suits at script meetings applying a mathematical formula along the lines of “Cute Kids + Romance + Traumatic Bit x sibling rivalry = feelgood tearjerker”. It’s amazing they didn’t find room for a bit with a dog.

On top of all that, the message of the film is patronizing and just doesn’t ring true – why should Helen be forced to give up her perfectly good career? Couldn’t some sort of compromise be reached? The film implies that Helen needs to do some growing up herself, as if she can’t really be an adult without learning what it’s like to be a mother.

In short, Raising Helen is a strong contender for one of the worst films of the year. Don’t be fooled by the cute-looking trailer – the film is utter rubbish and, to add insult to injury, it also drags the running time out to an interminable 2 hours. Avoid like your life depended on it.

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Content updated: 18/02/2020 10:58

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