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raising helen
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Raising Helen

Starring Kate Hudson, Joan Cusack and John Corbett
Screenplay by Jack Amiel & Michael Begler; story by Patrick J. Clifton & Beth Rigazio
Directed by Garry Marshall

IN SHORT: Take the family... [Rated PG-13 for thematic issues involving teens. 114 minutes]

...assuming that the youngest of your kidlets has had "the talk." Raising Helen has some, albeit minor, stuff that goes beyond what parental units may want a nine year old to see (the PG Rating means you probably shouldn't be taking a nine year old, after all, but who doesn't...?).

For everyone else Raising Helen is a film at which you can plant next to the kids and not fidget. Much. We found the film, which is a dead on example of a perfectly balanced "romantic comedy," to be perfectly average -- excepting the performance by Joan Cusack, who is even funnier than she usually is. It's a shame that no one in the Academy considers a "comedic" performance for a statue nod, because JC's rounded performance is worth every second of screen time.

Raising Helen is the story of Helen Harris, a Manhattan based executive assistant to the high powered owner of the Dominique high powered modeling agency (Helen Mirren). Harris dreams of the day she will make it to full agent status. She spends her evenings at the trendiest downtown clubs, making sure that the novice models of the firm get seen by all the right people. After partying all night, she's back at her desk at seven a.m.! (what you don't see is the mandatory nap from seven to midnight -- we used to do the party all night bit back in our rock 'n' roll radio days and knew the scene). Take a look at the writing credits: Two did the story. Two others did the screenplay. None of 'em have made much effort to make the main characters real. Helen's got two sisters, Jenny (Joan Cusack) and Lindsay (Felicity Huffman) but the latter gets so little screen time in the story's rush to dump her kids in an unprepared lap that there is no time to care.

Lindsay and her hubby are removed via an off screen accident and Helen "inherits" her niece and nephew, 'cuz leaving the kids to the older sister Joan Cusack) who's already got kids,would make too much sense and not be anywheres near as fun as dropping one teen and two preteens on a clueless, party going, hot single femme. Audrey (Hayden Panettiere) is 15, just chomping at the bit to be 18. Henry (Spencer Breslin) is a morose li'l kid at age 10. He doesn't want to play ball or take care of his pet turtle, all understandable given the circumstances but quite beyond the ability of Helen to figure out and make right. On the opposite end of the scale, where most of the sympathy lies and where most of the wetworks will generate from is Sarah (Abigail Breslin), age 5 and protector of a stuffed Hippopotamus called "Hippo."

Helen's life quickly deteriorates, at least from her POV, in to a homonym for the first syllable of her name. Trying to hold the ready made family together involves a move from Manhattan to Queens -- those outside of the Big Apple need to know that die hard Manhattanites view that kind of move as a Fate Worse Than Death -- and the quest for a school that doesn't have armed policemen on every floor. Thus, Saint Barbara's Lutheran, run by Pastor Dan Parker (John Corbett) who isn't fooled for a second when this quartet of born again Lutherans shows up at his door. There's also a new job at a previously owned car lot run by Garry Marshall regular Hector Elizondo, thanks to a recommendation by neighbor Nilma (Sakina Jaffrey).

Raising Helen is the old yarn of free spirit learning responsibility, stuffed with this generation's attractive faces. Don't get us wrong. We've liked Kate Hudson's past work. Ditto Corbett from his teevee days on Northern Exposure. But the only thing everyone in our theater was paying attention to was the waste of space called Paris Hilton, who has a pair of cameos in a -- get this -- nightclub scene. Gee, what a stretch!

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Raising Helen, he would have paid . . .


This thing is just begging for a rental bin to put it in.

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The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.