Movie Review: Raising Helen (2004)

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That’s right. Shoe-tying is tough. Why do you think Jesus wore sandals?

Length: 1Hr 59
Rating: PG
About: Single and self-involved, Helen Harris (Kate Hudson) has a thriving fashion career and a lavish lifestyle in New York City. Helen is shocked to hear that her sister and brother-in-law have died in an accident, and alarmed that they have named her the guardian of their three kids (Hayden Panettiere, Spencer Breslin, Abigail Breslin). As the children struggle with the change, Helen has to decide whether she’ll cling to her old ways or come to terms with her new family role.

The Good

  • It’s an upbeat alternative to Beaches with an Uncle Buck vibe to it. Kate Hudson and John Corbett are beautiful leads. I’m not sure why I avoided Hudson’s films when they were being released; I certainly missed out.
  • It’s crazy to watch this film 15 years after the fact and see the young faces of the three orphaned siblings; while I’ve not caught Spencer Breslin in much since the early thousands, Hayden Panettiere has very rarely left the screen and Abigail Breslin was most recently seen alongside other child stars in Scream Queens.
  • It has a happy enough ending. What more do you want from this romantic comedy that has cameos from the director’s stable.

The Bad

  • This film is coming at the end of the romantic comedy roll out. As a result, it feels a little cliqued and tired. It’s a paint-by-number plot with very little variation.
  • As much as I love both Hudson and Corbett’s characters and their individual delivery, there’s zero chemistry and it really shows.

The Ugly

  • It’s a personal thing, but why have someone as amazing as Felicity Huffman cast to not use her fully. Man, I am gutted that she’s the sister that died.
  • Joe Mazzello was not in nearly enough to justify me watching this. One scene and then zip, nothing.

Final Thoughts

This really isn’t one of Gary Marshall’s best offerings and even playing “Whose from his acting stable?” Was enough to rescue this film and make it one that i’d watch again.

Love Han x

Christmas Film Advent- The Polar Express (2004)

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This bell is a wonderful symbol of the spirit of Christmas – as am I. Just remember, the true spirit of Christmas lies in your heart.

Length: 1 Hr 40

Rating: U

About: Tom Hanks and director Robert Zemeckis (“Forrest Gump”; “Cast Away”) reunite for “Polar Express,” an inspiring adventure based on the beloved children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg. When a doubting young boy takes an extraordinary train ride to the North Pole, he embarks on a journey of self-discovery that shows him that the wonder of life never fades for those who believe.

Nice List

  • It’s a wholesome story that has many layers; the journey is physical, philosophical and spiritual. What child at heart wouldn’t want to spend Christmas Eve onboard a steam train going to see Santa?
  • The protagonist’s journey from sceptic to believer is quite beautiful. He’s a logical child and the beginning shows him using his intellect to collect information so it’s understandable that he questions Santa’s existence. Following his journey and watching him experiencing the magic of Christmas is heartwarming.
  • The film has diversity without feeling forced; yes, the young boy is who we start and end with but it can be argued that the young girl makes up part of the ensemble. While it had the feeling of being set in the 50s, choosing not to root it in an era allows the film to focus on the spirit of Christmas without bogging itself down in social politics. Which makes a nice change.
  • The music is something that keeps the film progressing and much more of a traditional score that fits Zemeckis’ catalogue of films.

Naughty List

  • The animation style is just not for me. It comes across more as computer game play, especially in those scenes that look like the characters are on theme park rides; something which is done one too many times for my liking.
  • The stereotype of the Know-it-all Kid is like fingers on a chalkboard. So overkill annoying that I spent the film wanting to beat the shit out of him.
  • I’m not sold on the casting of Tom Hanks. He’s the modern answer to Jimmy Stewart and I’m not sold on him as the impatient and cranky train attendant. He’s perfect when insightful and kind, but anything else is just lost on me. This is one where I think Jim Carrey would be perfect for the role.
  • It feels way too long. Once the film had finished I was certain it had been on for a little over two hours. This could be due to certain scenes being style over substance.
  • The thing about trains… it doesn’t matter where they’re going. What matters is deciding to get on.” There’s just so much wrong with this statement! So, so, wrong. I’ve gotten on a train before and not paid attention to where it was going. It buggered up my day royally.

Final Thoughts

This film is not for me. I can’t get past the animation that pulls me out of the story. I’m sure there is an audience for it, and my nephew’s love of trains will see it part of my regular viewing for years to come.

Christmas Film Advent- Surviving Christmas (2004)

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“Some things cannot be unseen.”

Length: 1 hr 31
Age: 12
About: A wealthy executive, Drew Latham (Ben Affleck) has no close relationships and becomes nostalgic for his childhood home as Christmas approaches. When he visits the house and finds another family living there, he offers the residents, Tom Valco (James Gandolfini) and his wife, Christine (Catherine O’Hara), a large sum of money to pretend they are his parents. Soon Drew tests the couple’s patience, and, when their daughter, Alicia (Christina Applegate), arrives, things get increasingly tense.

The Naughty List

  • Little heavy on the incest and porn jokes. Which is funny, for the first one or five. For such an uplifting film, it just seems unnecessary to lay it on so thick. Either it needs to be toned down, or diversely amped up in order to earn a 15 rating.
  • Thank god Jennifer Morrison realised these dipstick princess were not how she wanted to spend her acting career and landed two plump roles on prime time TV. She’s just not believable as the pampered Legally Blonde wannabe and is nothing more than fingernails on a blackboard the entire time she’s on screen.

The Nice List

  • James Gandolfini is a grumpy delight in this comedy. He’s the perfect chalk to Ben Affleck’s cheese. He’s downright perfect and, in all honesty, I’d happily have had more of him in the film.
  • Catherine O’Hara is the Queen of Christmas. I couldn’t think of anyone better in the role of the mother. She is able to roll with the unusual scenario and sass everyone while doing so.
  •  The plot has a heart underneath its strangeness. At the root of the plot is family and while playing pretend, something real came home. Working with what could perhaps be considered a clique, Surviving Christmas manages to make something new and charming. Even with Ben Affleck circa twat in the lead.
  • Its really funny and the chuckles don’t come from the ruder portions of the film. 

Checking it Twice

I’m still not sold on Ben Affleck in the lead. He works well with the cast and there’s a nice chemistry with Christina Applegate, however I want to punch him in the face most of the time he’s on the screen. I think I would have enjoyed it better had someone like Adam Sandler or Jason Bateman. That said, Affleck handles the heartfelt reveal really well and does show potential that’ll recognised fully in 2012 with an Oscar nod for his role in Argo.

Final Thoughts

It’s a fun film that is a little flawed, but will always be charming enough to stay on the festive watch list.

Han x