A relative dies and to your surprise you find you have become guardian to their children. It is a familiar story in the world of cinema and often these stories are quite predictable be it career minded women finding juggling career and parenthood impossible or men discovering how inept they are when forced to care for a child. In fact the whole guardian to children storyline is so well used that a new one seems to come along every other year.
That brings me "Raising Helen" a 2004 movie which sees Kate Hudson being the career minded Helen Harris a New Yorker who to her shock discovers she has been made legal guardian to her nieces and nephew. Now as such "Raising Helen" is 100% familiar and tries to cover every aspect of this familiar storyline from the humour of Helen not being very good at the parent thing to the changes which she has to accept when it comes to her new life. The trouble is that "Raising Helen" does try to cover everything and as such spreads it self too thinly, being a little amusing, being a little dramatic and a little touching but in turn being very average, entertaining but just average.
Out of the 3 sisters Helen Harris (Kate Hudson - How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days) leads the glamorous New York life style as she works for a model agency. But that all changes when her sister Lindsay (Felicity Huffman) and husband are killed in a car accident and rather leaving their 3 children to sister Jenny (Joan Cusack) who is already a mother leaves orders in her will that Helen should become their legal guardian. Surprised by sudden parenthood Helen's worst fears come true as she struggles with trying to be a parent rather than a cool aunt to 3 children and that is not all as she also discovers that being a parent does not go with her job. With her life turned upside down Helen struggles but finds some surprising help in Pastor Dan (John Corbett - My Big Fat Greek Wedding), the handsome man of the cloth who is a teacher at the school she places the children in.
So as already mentioned "Raising Helen" tries to cover everything that you would expect from a movie which has someone thrown into instant parenthood. And it is all very familiar from the humour of ordering take out for dinner to Helen struggling to keep tabs on the children. At the same time we get the drama be it when the eldest Audrey throws a party or when Helen faces the fact that she is no good at being a parent. And just for good measure throw in a romantic element as Pastor Dan falls for Helen.
But because "Raising Helen" does try to cover every base and with 3 children of different ages it throws up a lot of issues it does spread itself too thinly. The knock on effect is that the humour is obvious as is the emotional drama and it is almost a case that it plays out in a very predictable manner until Helen finally has to face a choice. There are a couple of nice twists and the element of Helen struggling to be tough rather than a cool aunt is an added bonus as is the tense relationship between Helen and Jenny who feels hurt that she was not granted guardianship of the children. But it does end up very average, pleasant but average.
But part of the reason why it is pleasant is that it is well cast with the trio of Abigail Breslin, Spencer Breslin and Hayden Panettiere doing a nice job of being cute but not annoying children. But the stars of "Raising Helen" are Kate Hudson and John Corbett who it has to be said have both been cast because they look good and have this easy going manner. It means that the whole romantic subplot between them looks nice because they look nice together and have this air of easy going going on. But none of the performances and you can add Joan Cusack, Helen Mirren and Felicity Huffman to the list are that great just very nice.
What this all boils down to is that "Raising Helen" is a pleasant little comedy drama which covers the familiar ground of instant parenthood. It is both fun and a little touching but makes the mistake of trying to cover every element and only doing an average job of it.
Tags: Instant Families