Raising Helen

Bomb Rating: 

Whenever director Garry Marshall's name is mentioned in connection with directing a movie, I start having seizures. I'm not kidding about this. I was getting a Grande coffee at the local Starbucks a couple of mornings ago when the girl behind the counter mentions "Raising Helen" and Garry (it's a pretty film-literate town) and the next thing I know I'm prone on the floor and some older woman is running around the store screaming at the top of her lungs because I've dumped my entire cup of scalding hot coffee down her blouse.

Well, Garry Marshall is clearly to blame. I looked up his directing credits and it all came back to me. He directed "The Other Sister" and it's pretty clear to me now that any time his name comes up I have a post-traumatic stress reaction due to that film. Let's face it, this guy made a romantic comedy about the mentally handicapped, so there's pretty much no level too low for him to sink.

Fortunately, I was well medicated for this film and did not have any seizures in the actual theater. If there's any point being made here, it's that women should be barefoot and pregnant. Helen Harris (Kate Hudson) has a successful career in a modeling agency as an assistant to the owner, Dominique (Helen Mirren). But then her sister is in a horrible car accident and for some inexplicable reason, wills custody of her three children to Helen instead of her other sister, Jenny (Joan Cusack), who not only has experience raising children, but actually wants the little brats.

If there's such a thing as playing Russian Roulette with kids as the victims, this is it. The kids are roughly 15, 10, and 5, and Helen has already spent part of the movie marveling at Audrey's (Hayden Panettiere) fake I.D. Apparently, the dead sister's thinking was this: "My sister is a complete screw up, but if I give her custody of my children in the event that I die, this will compel her to behave like an adult and mature."

Um, you have a sister who lives in New York, works in the fashion industry, and spends most of her free time clubbing. You have another sister who is happily married and already has kids. One sister is wild and probably has at least one chemical dependence problem while the other sister is boring, strict, and lives to be a mother. Really, doesn't it make sense to give those kids to the wild sister as a life lesson?

I also liked the fact that the main love interest is pretty much a predatory priest. Helen considers enrolling the kids in the local Lutheran school and Pastor Dan (John Corbett) is on the cooch hunt faster than a starving cat on a can of tuna. Look, I appreciate that the guy is a Pastor and all and can marry and engage in intercourse and oral and anal and whatever, but is hitting on the mothers of the kids at the school at which you're the principal the best way to make God happy? Really, this is about one step from making touching the children comic relief.

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