So why would the third sister (Felicity Huffman) pick Hudson and not Cusack to raise her children should she and her husband die before they’re grown? A mystery indeed, but one that’s solved quite satisfactorily at the conclusion of this endearing film.
“Fashion and family don’t mix,” the ultra-sophisticated head of a model agency (Helen Mirren) tells assistant Helen Harris (Hudson). That’s what worries Helen, an ambitious career woman who’s been appointed guardian of three children after her sister’s fatal car accident. Played delightfully by Hudson, Helen is immensely watchable as she struggles with the added responsibilities of caring for her nieces and nephew while trying to keep a lucrative position in the glamorous world of fashion.
Parenthood is difficult enough when children come one at a time and you have a spouse to shoulder part of the work. But Helen becomes a single parent of a trio of youngsters overnight – each one with special needs and problems. Almost miraculously, our heroine receives help from a handsome pastor (John Corbett), the principal of a Lutheran school in which she enrolls her new charges. One of the movie’s most amusing scenes shows Helen trying to convince the pastor that she and the children are Lutherans. “We’ll have to take a blood test to make sure,” teases Pastor Dan who’s clearly smitten by her. “All three of them are hemophiliacs,” Helen replies, not realizing he’s joking. Silly, I know, but Hudson has a knack for making lines like this believable.
Romance blooms between Helen and Pastor Dan despite interruptions from a rebellious teenage girl (Hayden Panetierre), a morose pre-teen boy (Spencer Breslin) and their darling little sister (Abigail Breslin) who’s obsessed about learning how to tie her shoes. Unfortunately, everything comes to a head when the teenager engages in risk-taking behavior that could lead to serious trouble. Who’s Helen gonna call? A Mom Club member, of course. And maybe, just maybe, she’ll finally become one herself.
Hudson and Corbett project a sweet chemistry together as a romantic couple, and Cusack should get an Oscar nomination for her supporting work here. Her SuperMom scowls and tirades are absolutely priceless! My only complaint? The elegant Mirren has too few scenes.
Raising Helen emphasizes humanistic values while offering appealing characters and amusing dialogue. It’s the kind of comedy that makes you think as well as laugh. My family and I think watching this movie is a wonderful way to spend Mother’s Day. (Released by Touchstone Pictures and rated “PG-13” for thematic issues involving teens.)
Review also posted at ReelTalk Movie Reviews.