ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  garry marshall

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  romantic comedy

LENGTH  -  119 minutes

RELEASED  -  28 may 2004

DISTRIBUTOR  -  touchstone pictures

OFFICIAL SITE  -  raising helen

raising helen - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from raising helen at

buy the dvd from raising helen at

after her sister and brother-in-law die in a car accident, a young woman becomes the guardian of their three children.

shot on the same streets in queens as spider-man.


picture from raising helen

picture from raising helen

picture from raising helen

picture from raising helen


one out of four possible stars

Raising Helen has all the hallmarks of a sweet-tempered romantic comedy, but in most of its scenes, the film is entirely too soft in its approach to the material. And this is surprising given that lead star Kate Hudson has shown she is capable of much more impressive comedy. And she's also proved herself in the dramatic arena as well with roles in such films as Almost Famous and The Four Feathers. But the script of Raising Helen doesn't do Hudson or any of the other talented actors enough justice. The predictability of the plot might have seemed less of an issue had the entertainment factor (i.e. the jokes) been greater.

John Corbett, Joan Cusack, and Helen Mirren seem like wasted talent in their supporting roles, reciting unsurprising dialogue and performing lackluster jokes. If ever there was a film whose entire allotment of jokes was inserted into the trailer, this film would be it. More than once, viewers will hear the anticipatory laughter of audience members who know the punch line before a character's spoken it. And while this might happen regularly in heavily promoted films, there aren't a great many jokes in this movie that people who have viewed the theatrical trailer won't have already seen.

It's easy to draw several comparisons between this film and one like Three Men and a Little Lady, but though it's a familiar plot, there's nothing fresh about Helen's approach. There comes a time when a recycled plot needs more than the "usual" treatment to transform it into a new experience. Because let's face it, no film is "new" and all the stories have already been told countless times. It's simply up to the filmmakers to fashion something new out of the familiar material. But who should be to blame for the comedy that seems to have past its expiration date? Is it a failure of the actors to take the words from the mind of the screenwriter and turn them into something worth listening to?

Or should the blame rest on the director for his not having noticed the rampant ordinary dialogue and characters in his film? Maybe some of the blame should rest at the hands of the editor, who contributed to the film's rather extensive length. In point of fact, despite the film's rather normal length, the fact that the second half of the film seems to drag into eternity makes it easy to believe nothing in the film was ever exceptional and that everything the editor had at his fingertips was tedious and sedate. If the filmmakers had attempted to "shore up" and tighten the narrative, the film probably would have had a running time of ten minutes. Five minutes of opening credits and a final five of closing.

Possibly the most entertaining role in the film belongs to the wildly stereotypical "funny foreigner" performance from Sakina Jaffrey, who plays Helen's Indian neighbor, "Silma." When a supporting actor can steal the title of Most Entertaining from the lead star of a film, the problems of weak script and tired characterizations become so much more obvious. Should the audience be satisfied with the jokes that have a tendency to fall like duds from the lips of John Corbett's "Pastor Dan" character? Should viewers feel sated after seeing a lively yet wholly unfunny tirade from "Jenny Portman," Joan Cusack's infinitely strange older sister character?

While the pop-infused soundtrack doesn't stand out as something worth buying on a CD, the score, composed by John Debney, is tastefully written and used smartly by the editors. With the weak script poking its nose into every scene, it's rather unusual that the filmmakers didn't dump the score heavily on the less affecting scenes. Like all of the elements in the film, the score and pop songs are soft and subdued. There's just not enough vitality present in this or any other part of the film. Perhaps if the screenplay had taken a truly unexpected turn or the jokes had been laugh-out-loud funny, this light "popcorn" film could have been welcome theatrical diversion.

It's difficult, in a way, to watch a cast of actors try so hard to make something mediocre into something truly entertaining. There are moments of heart and wit in Raising Helen, but they are the type of moments worth a trip to the local video store, not the price of a theater ticket. With last year's disappointing Alex & Emma bottoming out on the box office scale, but How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days finding a healthy audience, Kate Hudson is nowhere near a middling streak, though Raising Helen certainly won't raise her average. Though the performances can't be faulted, neither can anyone in this film be congratulated on rousing appearance. And in the world of romantic comedies, the lack of vibrancy and spirit is just too damaging.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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