Director: Garry Marhsall
Cast: Kate Hudson, Joan Cusack, John Corbett, Helen Mirren, Hayden Panettiere, Abigail Breslin, Spener Breslin
Released: May 28, 2004
Life As We Know It
Director: Greg Berlanti
Cast: Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel, Josh Lucas
Released: October 8, 2010
I decided to review both these movies together as they have a similar plot: parents die in a car crash and leave their children to the least likely people (or person) to raise them.
In Raising Helen, Helen (Kate Hudson) and Jenny (Joan Cusack) are sisters whose older sister and brother-in-law are killed in a car accident. Or maybe their sister just moved to Wisteria Lane since she's played by Felicity Huffman and this movie came out the same year Desperate Housewives premiered. By the way, Cusack and Huffman, who are the same age, are 17 years older than Hudson. They are technically old enough to be her mother....I know the characters may not be the same age as the actors (I'm just going by the actors' ages since we don't know how old their characters), but 17 years just seems like a big gap.
In Life As We Know It, Holly (Katherine Heigl) and Messer (Josh Duhamel) are set up by a couple they're best friends with, but the date is such a disaster that there's not even a date because they piss each other off even before they drive to the restaurant. However, they keep seeing each other since their friends get married and they are the godparents of their daughter, Sophie. The parents, too, are killed in a car crash. Why is it always a car crash? I suppose that's the easiest way to kill off a couple of people. Having them murdered would be too traumatizing and a plane crash would be killing many more innocent people.
Guess who the parents left as the guardian to their children in both movies? That's right, Helen, the young party girl who is single and has a full time job as a booking agent for models is left to raise her two nieces and one nephew. Hayden Pana-whatever (I never know how to pronounce her last name, so that's what I call her in real life!) is ten years younger than Kate Hudson and even in the movie they have more of a sister relationship than an aunt/niece one, forget a mother/daughter one! Spencer and Abigail Breslin are the other two kids and Abigail is so young she looks like she was a fetus not that long ago! And Holly and Messer are left to raise one year old Sophie on their own.
In both movies, nobody knew that this was the wish of the deceased parents and if they should die, they would be raising their kids. That seems odd to me. I don't have kids so I don't know how the legal stuff works if you and your spouse die, but I would assume once you choose someone to be your guardian, THEY SHOULD KNOW and maybe even have to sign a contract prepared by your lawyer SO THEY KNOW!! Because in both movies they're all like, "WHAT? They chose me/us?" Really, movies, really?
I don't know which deceased parents were more stupid. It doesn't make sense for the parents in Life to leave their daughter with two people who aren't married and can't stand each other. Since the house mortgage is paid off, they both move into their dead friends' house together which is just weird. Not the fact that they're living in their dead friends' home...hey, if you have a free place to take care of a kid, go for it. What's weird is that they're both living there together raising a child, but yet they have separate lives. You think that would be weird for their dating lives, but they don't seem to have any problems with it. At least they explain why nobody in their immediate family would be fit parents for their daughter because Holly and Messer see if there's anything better and we meet a sister who's a stripper, another sibling who has ten kids, and a frail old father. It would have made more sense if they left Sophie to Holly (the more responsible of the two). Were they not thinking that their friends might get married (to different people!) and the situation would be awkward for everyone? Of course, they do end up together (like you didn't see that one coming) and after sleeping together, Holly says to Messer, "Do you think our friends had this all planned out so we would end up together?" Well, if that was their intention, that was pretty stupid because what if things hadn't worked out? Then they probably would have gone to court to see who would raise Sophie and everything would have been a mess. Stupid deceased parents!
And then why do the parents in Raising Helen (a title I still don't understand) have the younger sister as the sole guardian when Jenny already has two kids with one on the way and is married and knows how to deal with kids? It is established early on that Jenny is the black sheep of the family while Helen and Lynette are very close. Lynette leaves a note for her two sisters explaining why she made the choice she did and she basically chose Helen because she was more like her. Uh-huh. Not buying it, movie! By the way, I'm willing to bet that the two kids who play Cusack's children are one of the crew member's because they have no lines and are only in a couple scenes. They're just there to show us she is a Mom.
Out of the two scenarios, I think Helen is in the worst situation. She has to take care of three children by herself who are all old enough to remember their parents (and while there's the sad funeral scene, except for a few tears shed by the youngest, they seem to get over their parents pretty quickly!) while at least Holly and Messer are only dealing with one baby who will have no recollection of her parents and even calls Holly "Mama" by the end of the movie. Also, Sophie is a really cute baby (although they do have their crying baby and dirty diaper baby moments) while those three kids are super annoying. Hayden plays a very bratty teen who screams at everybody and the Breslin children are there to be the annoying kids, especially the boy. There's a scene where Helen is smoking and the boy tells her, "We don't need any more dead parents" or something to that effect. I know they were doing it for the comedy, but there is no way a child who just lost their parents days earlier would say something like that! They would not make a joke out of it!
Both movies have many wacky scenes where the new parents are taking care of their newly acquired children. There's a scene in Life where Messer has to take Sophie to work with him because Holly already had other engagement and he leaves her with the taxi driver to take care of her! And then there's a scene where Holly has just changed Sophie and has baby poo on her nose when the neighbors (one of them is played by Melissa McCarthy) come over. And in Raising Helen, there's a scene where Helen is helping with a fashion show (her boss is played by Helen Mirren who is much too good for this movie) and she brings Abigail who sees a model with a dog (played by Paris Hilton...I don't know why she just didn't play herself!) on the other side of the runway and crawls across the runway to get to it causing the models to topple over one another and thus gets Helen fired from her job. One of the most ridiculous part of the movie is that the four of them live in a tiny apartment in Queens with one bathroom. Four people and one bathroom? No, thank you! And there's a scene where Helen find out that Hayden has gone to a hotel with her boyfriend after a dance and she and Jenny go over there to confront them, but Helen chickens out and doesn't want to make Hayden mad at her, so she asks Jenny to do it. The scene was really weird because inside the room, the boy is in the bathroom and Hayden is in the room. You can tell that nothing has happened yet and when she hears someone knocking on the door, it looks like there's this flash of relief that crosses her face, but then she starts screaming at her aunt for ruining her life...maybe I just read too much into that look on her face and I'm giving this movie too much credit.
I read a review of Raising Helen that said that the funny parts weren't funny and the dramatic parts weren't dramatic which I agree with. The movie was just really boring. I didn't care about the characters and I found it annoying how Helen had this great amazing glamorous life. Not that Life As We Know It was a great movie by any means, but at least they made Holly and Messer a little more "real" and the movie kept my interest more than the other.
Actually, the more I think about it, while these two movies have similarities, Raising Helen reminds me more of Stepmom.
Here's a quick review I wrote of Raising Helen I did when I first saw it on DVD about ten years ago...as you can see, my opinion did not change!
Raising Helen - This movie has the stupidest, most unrealistic plotline ever. As you all probably know, Kate Hudson's sister and brother in law die in a car crash and they have 3 children and who do they ask to care for them? Cool Aunt Helen from New York who's lifestyle includes clubbing and partying and a busy career. I can just picture the writers now thinking of how they’re going to make a depressing situation into a wacky! Funny! Hilarious! one! Kate acts more like the kid's cool older sister than a mom. She doesn't give them to Joan Cusack's character who actually already has children, thus has the experience. Duhhhh. God, this movie was so friggin unrealistic. And why did Dead Mom choose cool Aunt Helen? Because she was the most like her! The whole movie reeked of bs. The oldest daughter was such a brat who needed a good bitch slappin'! Gary Marshall seems like a nice guy, but honestly, Gar? Do you really need to keep reminding me that Kate Hudson plays Helen Harris during the deleted scenes segment? Got it the first time! Thanks!