Following in mom Goldie Hawn's footsteps, Kate Hudson does the kooky blonde bit in nondescript comedy Raising Helen. The story of a party girl unexpectedly saddled with three kids, it marks yet another misstep for Pretty Woman director Garry Marshall. Don't be fooled into thinking this is a romantic comedy, since love takes a back seat to a Waltons-style lecture in family values, with the laughs more widely scattered than a kooky blonde's brain cells.
Bearing striking similarities to Kevin Smith's Jersey Girl, the film follows fast-living modelling agent Helen Harris (Kate Hudson), whose clubbing days are cut short when one of her sisters (Felicity Huffman) dies in a car crash. In the will, Helen is entrusted with care of the surviving children: a standard moody teenager (Hayden Panettiere); the archetypal ten-year-old wiseass (Spencer Breslin); and - filling the cute quotient - five-year-old Sarah (Abigail Breslin).
Helen's eldest sister (Joan Cusack) takes umbrage at the decision - after all, she's the one with previous child-rearing experience and a mumsy haircut to match. Still she helps out where she can, but her biggest challenge is getting Helen to start acting like a responsible parent. As an afterthought, Helen must also learn the joy of lasting love with hip Lutheran pastor Dan (John Corbett).
"ISN'T FUNNY ENOUGH OR DRAMATIC ENOUGH"
The parenting clichés are laid on thick, and include Helen having to secretly replace the kids' pet frog (killed through negligence) and prevent her 15-year-old niece from having sex with the neighbourhood bad boy. These crises are made even less compelling, because Marshall doesn't paint a fair picture of the life Helen sacrifices to play happy families. Her fashion industry friends are portrayed as universally shallow and obnoxious - although Helen Mirren does an absolutely fabulous turn as her sneering boss.
Kate Hudson's natural charisma also shines through but she's ill-served by the director, who consistently rocks the balance between sadness and light. Simply, this isn't funny enough or dramatic enough, leaving Raising Helen to sink like a stone.