Raising Helen

Helen Harris (Kate Hudson) is a single, free-spirited, successful New York modeling agency assistant who seems to be extremely comfortable with her high profile Manhattan lifestyle. But when older sister, Lindsay Davis (Felicity Huffman) and husband Paul Davis (Sean O'Bryan) tragically die in a car accident, Helen suddenly finds herself the legal guardian of her 15-year old niece Audrey Davis (Hayden Panettiere), 10-year old nephew Henry Davis (Spencer Breslin) and 5-year old niece Sarah Davis (Abigail Breslin). As a result, Jenny Portman (Joan Cusack), Helen's other sister and the so-called perfect 'Martha Stewart' mother is appalled and questions Lindsay's ultimate decision on having the family 'Wild Child' care for her children. In the end, Helen quickly grows up and learns a valuable life lesson.

This 'family rental' focuses on love between family members, thematic teenage issues and the responsibilities between family members. The story also reminds the audience that life is always an unexpected journey that can suddenly reset a person's priorities. The film's only amusing moments are when supporting characters such as Helen's crazy neighbour, Nilma (Sakina Jaffrey) and Mickey (Hector Elizondo), the owner of a used car lot where Helen briefly works are introduced.

On a more surprising note, who would of thought that Kevin Smith, the director of "Dogma" and "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" and Garry Marshall, the director of "Pretty Woman" and "Princess Diaries" would ultimately make the same movie in the same year? There is no question that "Raising Helen" is a close replica to Smith's latest flick "Jersey Girl" with three exceptions: the hero is now a heroine, the drama of one child is tripled and the relocation is now from New Jersey to New York City. However, because of a weak heroine and poor writing, "Raising Helen" unfortunately becomes the less polished of the two.

First off, I'm speaking as a Hudson fan myself; but her defining attempts to connect with the audience are slightly disappointing. The combination of her high spirits and intensive drive is unappealing. After a strong impression in "Almost Famous", Hudson's character does not seem to be a miscast, but simply just a transparent performance. Surprisingly, even "Jersey Girl" Ben Affleck manages to do a better job at convincing the audience about the struggles of single parenting and juggling a career!

Second, writers Jack Amiel and Michael Begler never remain on one definite plot, but branch off into several sub-plots: Helen's struggles with the children, Helen's possible love interest with Pastor Dan Parker (John Corbett), Helen's conflict with her jealous sister Jenny (Wild Child versus Black Sheep), Audrey's teenage issues, etc. Marshall limits the performances within a narrow range by spelling out each complication, then quickly resolving it without any initial development. After two hours, the audience becomes fed up with all of the 'meaningful life lessons' and is relieved when the foreseeable 'All is Forgiven' ending finally arrives.

Special DVD features:
-"Bloopers from the set": I always enjoy watching these outtakes since they give you a sense of having been there.
-Deleted Scenes: I agree with all the removed scenes; still enjoyable to watch.
-Liz Phair's music video for the film.
-Audio Commentary with Director Garry Marshall and all of the film's writers. You have seen these segments before and this one is no different than the rest

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