Kate Hudson, Joan Cusack, Dakota Fanning
Patrick Clifton, Beth Rigazio
As I was reading TC Candler's review for "Raising Helen," I had to chuckle. Kate Hudson has generally done just the opposite for me as she does for him. With the exception of her performance in "Almost Famous," I've found her irritating, fluffy and and falsely perky. I've never been attracted to her, and that fact alone kept me from watching this film for quite some time.
Unexpectedly, I found myself somewhat entertained in this film...though, I will say it has MUCH more to do with the performance of Joan Cusack than Kate Hudson.
"Raising Helen" is about a young woman living in the fast lane at a modeling agency, who suddenly finds herself the guardian of three children when her sister and brother-in-law are killed in a car accident. Of course, this is a surprise to all as Hudson's character has exhibited little beyond the "surface" fun Aunt routine while her surviving sister, played by Cusack, is a "super mom."
Hudson seems to have a fondness for this light comedic, semi-romantic films. It would do her well to move on, however, this is one of her more appealing performances despite a noted lack of chemistry with her romantic interest, played by John Corbett. Corbett is always hit and miss, and here he mostly misses the mark with a fairly boring, uninteresting performance.
Hudson has a general likeability that bodes well for this character as she tries to do the right thing, take care of the children and grow up herself. Yet, I on several occasions found myself hitting a "cringe" factor with the scenes that sort of resembled the impact I felt by watching "Surviving Christmas." Some of the scenes were just downright uncomfortable.
The entire film is pretty much saved by Cusack, who seems to add so much to even the most stereotypical role. I've long been a Cusack fan and this is a fairly typical, yet constantly interesting performance for her. She pretty much steals all her scenes.
Nothing about this film is really above average...the script, the direction, the performances all pretty much just do the job...yet, my fondness for Cusack and her investment in her character elevate this film ever so slightly for me to the "slightly above average" mark.
I will also add this is yet another unsatisfying performance from kid performer Spencer Breslin, who was so remarkably annoying in "The Cat in the Hat."
This film seems very targeted at a young audience, and I could see where young girls might enjoy this performance. Hudson was nominated for a "Teen Choice" Award for her performance here, another indicator of the filmmaker's targeting a younger audience.
So, I found myself unexpectedly entertained on a very basic level by this film. A decent performance by Hudson and a wonderful performance by Cusack raise "Helen" to a C+ from this critic.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic