" Nobody goes into the valley of death. That’s why they call it the valley of death. "
— Grant Heslov, The Scorpion King

MRQE Top Critic

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In Raising Helen, Kate Hudson plays one of those classic successful New York movie women: an assistant to the head of a modeling agency on the fast track with a Manhattan apartment and all the hot dates she could want. She is the beloved glamorous aunt to the kids of her two happily married sisters, Joan Cusack as the prissy Jenny and Felicity Huffman as Lindsay, the one who likes Devo.

Helen gamely sets out to be a parent
Helen gamely sets out to be a parent

When Helen learns that her sister Lindsay and her husband have died in a car accident, the biggest shock follows: that Lindsay chose footloose Helen to parent her three kids, age four through 15, over Helen’s ultra-responsible supermom sister. Helen gamely sets out to be parent and friend to her bereaved nieces and nephew, and much hilarity ensues as she signs the kids up for school, trades her fancy job for one as a receptionist at a car dealership, and is courted by the Lutheran pastor at the kids’ school.

A dozen laughs and one slightly damp handkerchief later, Helen has found her purpose in life again, won her glamorous job back, is dating Pastor Dan, and has learned to say “because I said so” with feeling. It’s wholesome entertainment: no one is mean, no one swears, and this is surely the first time Devo’s classic eighties new wave “Whip It” provides the soundtrack for a family bonding moment. While Kate Hudson’s sparkly presence and some funny writing rescue this film from a maudlin fate, the pat storyline ultimately drags it down an all-too-familiar slope.