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"Raising Helen"

Directed by Garry Marshall.
Written by Jack Amiel and Michael Begler.
Starring Kate Hudson, John Corbett, Joan Cusack and Helen Mirren.
Release Year:  2004 
Review Date:  6/9/04


"Raising Helen" was literally the last movie at the two multiplexes near my office that I had not already seen, so I said

"Hey, I've got six bucks to set on fire...let's go see Kate Hudson!"

I like Kate Hudson.  Great smile.  Great actress, more than I can say about most of the 18-25 year olds that populate our current diet of young actresses in Hollywood.  But, she doesn't seem to pick projects very well; if you throw out "Almost Famous", you're left with "Le Divorce", "Dr. T and the Women", "200 Cigarettes", "Alex and Emma"...I didn't see "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days", but really, did I have to?

You can, then, safely add "Raising Helen" to the list of projects that are injected with Hudson's great energy but ultimately are not very good movies.  This time around, she plays Helen, a 20-something go-getter that works as an admin for a big-time modeling agency, living the life in New York City that Reese Witherspoon seemed to enjoy in "Sweet Home Alabama" in the first part of that film.  When one of her older sisters dies, the dead sister's will calls for Helen to take care of the three surviving children...odd, since no one in their right mind would entrust a club-hopping, chain-smoking socialite with three kids aged five to fifteen, but then again, this IS the movies.  We spend the rest of the film watching Helen trying to raise the three kids while working and living in Queens, as well as constantly flirting with the Lutheran pastor (John Corbett) that runs the kids' school.

Director Garry Marshall, who himself hasn't made a good movie in almost fifteen years ("Pretty Woman"), doesn't have much to work with here, unless you like your life lessons served with a dose of "3-2-1 Contact"-style spoonfeeding.  Hudson really does give us a great performance here, as she transforms herself from an irresponsible me-centric night owl to a loving caretaker.  Her energy saves this film from being a pile of Disney mush, which isn't easy, since the script gives us plenty of those ABC Afterschool Specials all rolled into one movie.

First we have life lessons based around the youngest child's attempts to tie her shoes.  The son needs to rediscover his love of basketball.  The oldest, Audrey (Hayden Panettierre), wants to appear cool in the eyes of her schoolmates, so she needs to be told that having sex with seniors is a bad move.  Helen learns that life as a single parent will mean no more trips to the club without getting that babysitter.  I felt like these, and many other, storylines could have been quite intriguing if they weren't so pandering, but the influence of the Disney engine means that the lines are pitched like a slow-pitch softball.  Lots of close-ups of Hudson being sensitive, lots of shots of kids looking sad, lots of...[snore]

See, at 114 minutes, this is just too long for all of this.  It doesn't help that--in a strange move, given the film--there's a five-minute animated short attached to the front of "Raising Helen", meaning that I was in the theater with all of this plus trailers for almost two and a half hours, which didn't make Daddy happy.  It really started to wear on me as the script tries to push the romantic subplot on us; I just never understand why films feel they have to have a love interest to keep me interesting in the main plot.  It adds nothing to the film, especially if you have seen Corbett play this SAME FUCKING ROLE in both "Sex and the City" and "My Big Fat Greek Wedding", the underappreciated good-guy lover that you can't help but force your daughter to marry.  Ugh.

There are some good laughs in "Raising Helen", and a great dance scene featuring white people dancing their extreme whitest to "Whip It" early in the film, going against my friend Ross's theory on dance scenes in the two-double-oh-four that all dance scenes must suck.  Also, for no apparent reason, Paris Hilton is in this film, and she sucks, so that was fun for me because Hilton has run herself into the ground with overexposure and I'm excited to see her fade into misery.  Otherwise, only Kate Hudson fans need apply to "Raising Helen", another addition into the poo pail of movies in this calendar year.

Rating:  Rental


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09