Raising Helen


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Rating: PG-13

Kate Hudson as Helen Harris
John Corbett as Pastor Dan Parker
Joan Cusack as Jenny Portman
Hayden Panettiere as Audrey Davis
Spencer Breslin as Henry Davis
Abigail Breslin as Sarah Davis
Helen Mirren as Dominique
Sakina Jaffrey as Nilma Prasad
Kevin Kilner as Ed Portman
Felicity Huffman as Lindsay Davis
Sean O’Bryan as Paul Davis
Amber Valletta as Martina
Ethan Browne as Devon
Michael Esparza as BZ
Katie Carr as Caitlin

Special Features:
Commentary by director Garry Marshall and the writers

Deleted scenes


Liz Phair music video

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.85:1) – Enhanced for 16×9 Televisions
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
French Language Track
Spanish and French Subtitles
Running Time: 119 Minutes

Helen Harris is a hotshot young model agent living in New York City. She loves the parties, her single life, and her job. However, when her older sister and brother-in-law are killed in an auto accident, she is left as the sole guardian of their children. Helen accepts the responsibility of taking care of the kids despite the fact that everyone (herself included) believes that her older sister and supermom Jenny should take the kids.

Helen soon learns that taking care of the children will require a number of sacrifices. She moves out of the city, finds a new job, and ends her single lifestyle. But will she be able to mature and discipline the children when it’s really important?

Raising Helen is rated PG-13 for thematic issues involving teens.

The Movie:
I generally like Garry Marshall movies and I’ve liked most of what Kate Hudson has done, so I was expecting to really enjoy Raising Helen. While it wasn’t the laugh out loud comedy that I was expecting, it was still mildly amusing. There were some great jokes here and there throughout the film, but there were just enough “cute” scenes and forced emotional moments to turn me off. It is also very much a “chick flick” though there are some good moments for everybody included. Finally, it’s a formula that has been repeated over and over again in films like Three Men and a Baby, Jersey Girl, Big Daddy, The Family Man, etc. etc. etc., all with varying degrees of success. Raising Helen lands somewhere in the middle.

The movie is in top form when Helen has to deal with the new trials and tribulations of parenthood that are thrust upon her. She also has to deal with the harsh realization that she must leave her single life behind. Being a parent myself, I can really sympathize with the transition between single life and parenthood. You no longer have a significant social life, your schedule is dictated by the children, you’re no longer looked on as being young, and boogers suddenly take a whole new importance in your life. Because I could identify with all this, I got the most laughs when Helen had to go through it.

The cast of this film is excellent. Kate Hudson is great as Helen Harris. She has the right mix of spunk, beauty, charm, and niceness that the role requires. You quickly warm up to her character despite the fact that she makes a number of mistakes with the kids in the film. Her interaction with both the children and adults is perfect. About the only misstep in the movie is when she finally must put her foot down with the kids. It’s about the only time that I had a hard time believing her performance, but otherwise she does a great job. Joan Cusack is also excellent as Jenny Portman. She displays the perfect amount of neuroticism and mother hen attitude to make her likable and exasperating at the same time. The highlight of her performance comes late in the film when she busts in on her niece and her boyfriend in a hotel room and lays down the law. It’s a hilarious moment that parents will definitely appreciate. The rest of the cast is pretty good, too. The children are all fine in their roles, John Corbett is cute and funny as Pastor Dan Parker, and Helen Mirren is fun as Helen’s boss Dominique.

All in all, Raising Helen is light entertainment. It’s going to entertain women more than men and parents more than kids, but I think there’s a little something here for everyone. If you like Garry Marshall, Kate Hudson, Joan Cusak, or John Corbett, you’ll probably enjoy this film.

The Extras:
This film is pretty light on the extras, but it offers that standard fare that should please viewers:

Commentary by director Garry Marshall and the writers – As you might expect, Marshall dominates this commentary, but the writers help move the conversation along as well. Marshall has some interesting anecdotes about the shooting of the film. He talks about when Robert DeNiro visited the set, who some of the extras were, and more. If you enjoyed the film, you’ll find what he has to say quite entertaining.

Deleted scenes – Marshall not only introduces the deleted scenes section, but he introduces each and every deleted scene and then follows up each one with more comments. It’s a bit of overkill. I like Marshall, but I often wished he would be quiet and get on with the deleted scene. There are a number of them included here. There’s one that shows Helen trying to cook breakfast for the kids. Another shows Helen’s boss starting an in-house day care for Helen and the other mothers. Then there’s a scene where some of Helen’s old friends from the city come visit her and a roach runs out at them. Another shows one of Helen’s old designer friends making a prom dress for her niece. There are some other deleted scenes and they are a good batch. You’ll want to check them out.

Bloopers – This is a short blooper reel featuring flubbed lines and jokes from the set. These are always fun and this one is no exception.

Liz Phair music video – I didn’t care for the music, but the video was amusing. They took Phair and her band members and put them into scenes in the movie. Some of the shots work better than others, but at least this music video ties into the movie more than other such movies songs.

The Bottom Line:
Raising Helen is a lighthearted chick flick. Fans of Garry Marshall, Kate Hudson, and Joan Cusack should enjoy it.