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Movie Info

RATING:

PG-13 for thematic issues involving teens

RELEASE:

May 2004

GENRE:

Comedy

STARRING:

Kate Hudson, Helen Mirren, Joan Cusack, John Corbett, Hector Elizond

DIRECTOR:

Gary Marshall

DISTRIBUTOR:

Touchstone Pictures

 

Please Note

In providing movie reviews on our site, CBN.com is not endorsing or recommending films we review. Our goal is to provide Christians with information about the latest movies, both the good and the bad, so that our readers may make an informed decision as to whether or not films are appropriate for them and their families.

MOVIE REVIEW

Raising Helen

By Phil Boatwright
The Movie Reporter

CBN.com - Kate Hudson plays Helen, an up-and-coming assistant to the boss (Helen Mirren) of a modeling agency. But her career plans are put on hold after her sister (Felicity Huffman) and brother-in-law are killed in a car crash, leaving her to care for their three kids, ages 5 to 15. She gets help from another older sister, the bossy Jenny (Joan Cusack), and a pastor (John Corbett), who falls in love with Helen while guiding her down life's new path.

Though you could find the same dilemmas surface in a bad made-for-TV melodrama, director Garry Marshall avoids the trappings of television sitcom. Applying his well-honed theatrical abilities, the creator of "Happy Days" and director of Pretty Woman and The Flamingo Kid gently develops both story and character, carefully avoiding maudlin schlock during the sensitive scenes, making good use of kid actors without cutesy preciousness, and finding humor in everyday situations, making the obvious seem fresh -- or at least honest.

What's more, he adds a moral structure seldom used in comic movies. Although religious teachings are not on the production's main menu, they are gently simmering on the back burner. Perhaps the best example of this is the use of a Christian school and minister. The lead takes her charges to a private religious school, and although it is obvious that she has not been a churchgoer, the humor never mocks religious beliefs. Rather, the jokes show how little non-churchgoers actually know about religious faith.

John Corbett ("Northern Exposure," My Big Fat Greek Wedding) portrays the Lutheran pastor and school master. And get this, he has a sense of humor, he's intelligent, able to take charge, and I believe most ladies will find him to be a romantic hunk. The filmmakers avoid cartoonish caricature while presenting this man of God. Ranking with movie portraits of ministers such as Fredric March in One Foot In Heaven, Joel McCrea in Stars in My Crown, and Richard Todd in A Man Called Peter, John Corbett fleshes out a constructive screen version of a man of the cloth.

Garry Marshall has to get comedy out of heartbreak. The parents of these three kids have passed away. The director is sensitive to this. There is a scene with the kids huddled in their parents' closet after the funeral. When discovered, the littlest one says, "It smells like Mommy." If you don't tear up at that, have your pulse checked. But the movie isn't about the passing of the parents. Rather it is about the growth of its main character, Helen, as she discovers what's really important in life.

Kate Hudson won my heart in "Almost Famous," the best film of 2001 (though Oscar disagreed, giving the statuette to the makers of Gladiator. Oh please.) However, since her screen début as Penny Lane, a teen rock groupie, Ms. Hudson has struggled to find the right character and film. Wanting to follow in her mom's (Goldie Hawn) formidable funny footsteps, the young comedian has floundered about in one disappointing romantic comedy after another. Never has the disappointment been due to her performance, but rather with the material, which has never seemed to compliment her uniqueness.

Not that Raising Helen will garner her Best Actress attention. When an actor makes it look easy, award committees underestimate the artistry. And Kate Hudson makes it look very easy. Pretty, perky, and already a pratfall pro, Ms. Hudson is loaded with comic charms as well as charisma and genuine warmth. Her role as Helen allows her to showcase all her best traits. "Raising Helen" is one of the few and far between films the Christian community is always saying they want. Witty, involving, even perceptive, it is a movie that thoroughly entertains without crudity, profanity or exploitive sexuality.

Raising Helen is romantic, stylish and downright funny. (In my opinion, the film receives its PG-13 rating for rather arbitrary reasons. I think it is a very clean movie. The content is not used to exploit, but rather help further the story and show the need for parental involvement.) According to the MPAA, it gets the PG-13 for a scene depicting a teen party and because a boy takes a girl to a motel after the prom. Nothing happens at the motel. The scene is there to show Helen having to behave like a concerned parent as she arrives to rescue the girl. Also, just before the cavalry arrives, the look on the teen girl's face relays the girl's awareness that she is not ready for sexual involvement, which may send a positive message to teens about abstinence. While this character harbors a great deal of female teen angst, she is also loving and responsible, often displaying these affections for her younger siblings.


Phil Boatwright is the editor of The Movie Reporter. For more information, visit www.moviereporter.com. Review used by permission.
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