Don't ask Garry Marshall, the director of the new Disney release "Raising Helen," what it takes to make a smart and appealing family film.

He is obviously stuck in a TV Land time-warp where his 70s situation comedies are thought of as cutting edge.

"Raising Helen" is the story of Helen Harris, a model at a happening Manhattan agency. She is the youngest of three sisters who lost their mother while still young. Jenny, the oldest, became a surrogate mother for her baby sister. While Lindsay, the middle daughter, shouldered little responsibility.

As adults, all appears happy until Lindsay and her husband are killed in an airplane crash. A family controversy erupts upon reading the will giving care of Lindsay's three children to Helen.

Jenny wonders how a single modeling executive can raise three children ranging in age from 5-15 years old.

Kate Hudson is not believable as the caring aunt. Her portrayal of Helen gives no real depth or emotion.

Joan Cusack could have been great as Jenny, but the script doesn't allow her to get there. The children and their individual sub-plots are not fully utilized. At over two hours in length, the time could have been better spent.

John Corbett provides the one quality performance as the Lutheran pastor, who works at the children's school and is Helen's love interest.

The fault really lies with Bruce Green's poor editing and Jack Amiel and Michael Begler's poorly developed screenplay. Manipulations of both would have allowed for a quality family film.

Despite several clever moments, "Raising Helen" never really grows up.


John Malgesini is an educator who works at Umatilla High School.


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