PG-13 for thematic issues involving teens
Kate Hudson, Helen Mirren, Joan Cusack,
John Corbett, Hector Elizond
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By Phil Boatwright
The Movie Reporter
- 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
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
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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