Raising Helen: Ron Batzdorff
Owen Gleiberman
May 26, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Raising Helen

Current Status
In Season
114 minutes
Wide Release Date
John Corbett, Kate Hudson, Joan Cusack, Felicity Huffman, Helen Mirren
Garry Marshall
Touchstone Pictures
Patrick J. Clifton, Bethany Rigazio

We gave it a C+

A new theme is emerging in chick flicks. You could hear it, softly, at the end of ”Mona Lisa Smile,” and it gets a few decibels louder in Garry Marshall’s Raising Helen, a winsomely formulaic domestic comedy that says that women can have it all — but they really shouldn’t try to. Helen (Kate Hudson), an assistant at a New York modeling agency, loves the midnight party life. Then fate intervenes. One of her sisters is killed, and in the will the sister specifies that her three kids — 15-year-old Audrey (Hayden Panettiere), 10-year-old Henry (Spencer Breslin), and 5-year-old Sarah (Abigail Breslin) — should all be entrusted to Helen’s care.

Holy responsibility! You’d think that ”Raising Helen,” in the let’s-pretend-I’m-not-a-glorified-sitcom-pilot tradition of ”Three Men and a Baby” and ”Jersey Girl,” would depict Helen’s new life with a twinge of hardship. But the conflicts she faces all melt away like butter. After bidding goodbye to her chichi career, she moves her new family to a four-bedroom flat in Queens, lands a job as a secretary at a used-car lot, and commences a flirtation with a local pastor (John Corbett). Hudson’s sunny, ringlet-tossing appeal fits snugly into the film’s happy-homemaker ideology: She makes caring for three kids she barely knows look downright glamorous. ”Raising Helen” does offer a lame, eleventh-hour gesture at nudging Helen toward a token version of her old career, but for women in the audience who are thinking of starting families, the film’s real message is clear: Don’t try this at work.

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