Veteran director Garry Marshall and screenwriters Jack Amiel and Michael Begler aim to strike a balance between romantic comedy and heartstring-tugger in this blandly wholesome, good-natured bit of escapism, but its predictability and clichéd plot make it instantly forgettable. Kate Hudson stars as perky young Helen Harris, whose eye for spotting new talent is helping her work her way to the top at dragon lady Dominique's (Helen Mirren) Manhattan modeling agency. Helen loves the nightlife and runs around with her bubble-wrap-clad beau (Ethan Browne), a male model. And while she rarely returns to the suburbs where her more down-to-earth sisters, Jenny (Joan Cusack) and Lindsay (Felicity Huffman), live, her visits are eagerly anticipated by her gaggle of nieces and nephews. But playing the cool aunt who admires her niece's first fake ID isn't really preparation for assuming full responsibility for Lindsay's abruptly orphaned children, 15-year-old Audrey (Hayden Panettiere), 10-year-old Henry (Spencer Breslin) and 5-year-old Sarah (Abigail Breslin). For starters, her tiny Manhattan apartment can't contain her new brood, so Helen is forced to abandon her beloved 212 area code for larger digs in the wilds of — gasp — Queens. She enrolls the kids in a local parochial school — which just happens to be run by a very attractive single pastor named Dan (John Corbett) — and tries in vain to keep her job with the child-loathing Dominique. In addition to finding new employment, Helen must cope with the rebellious Audrey, who's dating school thug BZ (Michael Esparza); console the suddenly introverted Henry, whose only friend is a turtle; and encourage the easily frustrated Sarah, who can't seem to remember how to do the littlest thing. And she must accomplish all this, as well as fall for supportive, hockey-playing Dan, while avoiding the resentful eye of hausfrau Jenny, who's just waiting for her to fail. The kids, especially the Breslin siblings, are cute. Cusack is underused, but makes her annoying, potpourri-loving suburban mom seem sympathetic. And Corbett is well-cast as an eminently suitable, if slightly dull, life mate for the newly grown-up Helen. But the adorable Hudson's onscreen transformation from party girl to supermom seems forced, and Marshall's efforts to pass her off as the next Julia Roberts-style every girl are irritating, especially the too easily resolved conflicts and clumsy physical humor.
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- Released: 2004
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: Veteran director Garry Marshall and screenwriters Jack Amiel and Michael Begler aim to strike a balance between romantic comedy and heartstring-tugger in this blandly wholesome, good-natured bit of escapism, but its predictability and clichéd plot make it… (more)