One of these days, Hollywood will make a movie about how awful parenthood can be—how it exhausts financial and emotional resources, shackles people to their cluttered homes, and sucks all the fun and adventure out of once-carefree lives. Until then, there are countless comedies like Raising Helen, which traffics in the usual clichés about a single urbanite (trendy, promiscuous, shallow) having her life transformed by a gaggle of snot-nosed moppets.
First appearing in high-heeled boots, a low-cut dress, and salon-perfect hair, Kate Hudson looks ready for a casting call on Sex And The City, complete with all the lazy signifiers of a New York single. She lives in a small Manhattan apartment to avoid running with the bridge-and-tunnel crowd, holds a superficial job at a modeling agency, goes club-hopping in the evening, and fields cell-phone calls from Paris and Milan. Meanwhile, her older sister (Joan Cusack) is an uptight mom from the Jersey suburbs, with a stable marriage and another baby on the way. When their sister and brother-in-law die in a car accident, Cusack and Hudson are both surprised to learn that the sister's three kids have been entrusted to Hudson, who doesn't know the first thing about child-rearing.
The strange thing about Raising Helen is that nothing out of the ordinary ever really happens. Save for a slapstick mishap on a fashion-show runway and some mild teen rebellion from the eldest girl, the kids are reasonably well-behaved, definitely not Problem Child monsters. For her part, Hudson has a little early trouble finding a decent living space and getting them to eat right, but she's by no means incompetent, at least not by the standards of movie parents who put on diapers backward or come to business meetings with jelly stains on their pantsuits. Hudson even finds the children a nice private school and a hunky Lutheran minister (John Corbett) in short order. So, basically, she gets custody of three good kids, she adjusts relatively smoothly, and the movie ends. When does the comedy come in?