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4 items from 2004


Raising Helen

9 July 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Kate Hudson has yet to find a role to match her eye-opening turn in "Almost Famous", which allowed her to play at both ends of the scale, the lowdown and the ephemeral. Since then, she's chosen insistently mainstream films designed to turn her into a romantic-comedy superstar, with less than dazzling results. Playing a party girl-turned-parent in "Raising Helen", she'll find more of an audience -- especially among females -- than with disappointments like "Alex & Emma." While its characters occupy an unconvincing emotional middle ground, "Helen" -- which the Walt Disney Co. sneaked on Mother's Day -- appears destined to climb well above the boxoffice midrange after it opens this month.

The script by Jack Amiel and Michael Begler puts a mild new-millennium update on the motherhood-meets-yuppiedom premise of "Baby Boom". Hudson's Helen Harris is a happily hardworking New Yorker who, as assistant to the owner of a glitzy modeling agency, is on the fast track to becoming an agent. When the elder of her two sisters (Felicity Huffman) dies in a car crash with her husband (Sean O'Bryan), Helen is astounded to learn that their will places their three children in her custody.

Even more surprised is Helen's other sister, Jenny (Joan Cusack), a supermom with her third kid on the way. For Jenny, motherhood is a kind of religion -- believing in wasting no time, she's already disciplining her unborn child when it kicks at inopportune moments. She seems to be waiting for the universe to come to its senses and release her nieces and nephews from Helen's inexpert care.

But the kids are more than willing to give it a shot with their young aunt. Teenage Audrey (Hayden Panettiere), for whom Helen has been a confidante, talks her into moving them from suburban New Jersey to a new life in the big city. Overcoming her disdain for the outer boroughs, Helen gives up her small working-girl pad, along with instant entree to every hotspot in Manhattan, and rents an affordable family-size apartment in -- gasp! -- Queens. Then she miraculously finds a nice Lutheran school with no waiting list and a dreamy principal (John Corbett). Tuition for the three kids is "no problem," but she soon finds that balancing motherhood and a career, not to mention the pastor's attentions, is not so simple.

Helen soothes the dark fears of the two younger kids -- played by real-life sibs Spencer Breslin (one of the only bright spots in "Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat") and Abigail Breslin -- but struggles to play the disciplinarian with rebellious Audrey. Through it all, the conflicts between Helen's two demanding roles play as cute rather than trying. To punctuate the temperate proceedings, director Garry Marshall stages big scenes -- in which Helen lets someone have it or is on the receiving end of another character's outburst -- most of which ring untrue.

Marshall's predilection for romantic fairy tales is much in evidence, though the comedy registers in a lower key than it did in such hits as "Pretty Woman" and "Runaway Bride". The story's emotional fallout is presented with far too much transparency, and Marshall keeps the performances within a narrow range that might be called over-the-top lite: cheery-through-the-tears, with every complication spelled out and quickly resolved.

The likable Hudson is hampered, her character's transition denied oomph, by having to be so reassuring throughout. Her best moments are with Cusack because something messier, in the form of sisterly jealousy and resentment, emerges. It's good to see the always original Cusack in a more substantial role after the scant screen time she received in "School of Rock".

Corbett follows his good-guy turn in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" with another impossibly bland Mr. Right. Helen Mirren, in a silver pageboy and oversize accessories, walks through the brief, obvious part of Helen's tough, child-phobic boss. Hector Elizondo has an uncredited role as an honest car dealer, and Paris Hilton cameos as a wordless variation on her fabulous self. Marshall and DP Charles Minsky make good use of New York locations in the polished production.

RAISING HELEN

Buena Vista Pictures

A Touchstone Pictures/Beacon Pictures presentation

A Mandeville Films/Ashok Amritraj production

Credits: Director: Garry Marshall

Writers: Jack Amiel, Michael Begler

Producers: David Hoberman, Ashok Amritraj

Executive producers: Mario Iscovich, Ellen H. Schwartz

Director of photography: Charles Minsky

Production designer: Steven Jordan

Music: John Debney

Co-producers: Todd Lieberman, Karen Stirgwolt

Costume designer: Gary Jones

Editors: Bruce Green, Tara Timpone

Cast:

Helen Harris: Kate Hudson

Pastor Dan Parker: John Corbett

Jenny Portman: Joan Cusack

Audrey Davis: Hayden Panettiere

Henry Davis: Spencer Breslin

Sarah Davis: Abigail Breslin

Dominique: Helen Mirren

Nilma: Sakina Jaffrey

Ed Portman: Kevin Kilner

Lindsay Davis: Felicity Huffman

Paul Davis: Sean O'Bryan

Running time -- 119 minutes

MPAA rating: PG-13 »

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Raising Helen

11 May 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Kate Hudson has yet to find a role to match her eye-opening turn in "Almost Famous", which allowed her to play at both ends of the scale, the lowdown and the ephemeral. Since then, she's chosen insistently mainstream films designed to turn her into a romantic-comedy superstar, with less than dazzling results. Playing a party girl-turned-parent in "Raising Helen", she'll find more of an audience -- especially among females -- than with disappointments like "Alex & Emma." While its characters occupy an unconvincing emotional middle ground, "Helen" -- which the Walt Disney Co. sneaked on Mother's Day -- appears destined to climb well above the boxoffice midrange after it opens this month.

The script by Jack Amiel and Michael Begler puts a mild new-millennium update on the motherhood-meets-yuppiedom premise of "Baby Boom". Hudson's Helen Harris is a happily hardworking New Yorker who, as assistant to the owner of a glitzy modeling agency, is on the fast track to becoming an agent. When the elder of her two sisters (Felicity Huffman) dies in a car crash with her husband (Sean O'Bryan), Helen is astounded to learn that their will places their three children in her custody.

Even more surprised is Helen's other sister, Jenny (Joan Cusack), a supermom with her third kid on the way. For Jenny, motherhood is a kind of religion -- believing in wasting no time, she's already disciplining her unborn child when it kicks at inopportune moments. She seems to be waiting for the universe to come to its senses and release her nieces and nephews from Helen's inexpert care.

But the kids are more than willing to give it a shot with their young aunt. Teenage Audrey (Hayden Panettiere), for whom Helen has been a confidante, talks her into moving them from suburban New Jersey to a new life in the big city. Overcoming her disdain for the outer boroughs, Helen gives up her small working-girl pad, along with instant entree to every hotspot in Manhattan, and rents an affordable family-size apartment in -- gasp! -- Queens. Then she miraculously finds a nice Lutheran school with no waiting list and a dreamy principal (John Corbett). Tuition for the three kids is "no problem," but she soon finds that balancing motherhood and a career, not to mention the pastor's attentions, is not so simple.

Helen soothes the dark fears of the two younger kids -- played by real-life sibs Spencer Breslin (one of the only bright spots in "Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat") and Abigail Breslin -- but struggles to play the disciplinarian with rebellious Audrey. Through it all, the conflicts between Helen's two demanding roles play as cute rather than trying. To punctuate the temperate proceedings, director Garry Marshall stages big scenes -- in which Helen lets someone have it or is on the receiving end of another character's outburst -- most of which ring untrue.

Marshall's predilection for romantic fairy tales is much in evidence, though the comedy registers in a lower key than it did in such hits as "Pretty Woman" and "Runaway Bride". The story's emotional fallout is presented with far too much transparency, and Marshall keeps the performances within a narrow range that might be called over-the-top lite: cheery-through-the-tears, with every complication spelled out and quickly resolved.

The likable Hudson is hampered, her character's transition denied oomph, by having to be so reassuring throughout. Her best moments are with Cusack because something messier, in the form of sisterly jealousy and resentment, emerges. It's good to see the always original Cusack in a more substantial role after the scant screen time she received in "School of Rock".

Corbett follows his good-guy turn in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" with another impossibly bland Mr. Right. Helen Mirren, in a silver pageboy and oversize accessories, walks through the brief, obvious part of Helen's tough, child-phobic boss. Hector Elizondo has an uncredited role as an honest car dealer, and Paris Hilton cameos as a wordless variation on her fabulous self. Marshall and DP Charles Minsky make good use of New York locations in the polished production.

RAISING HELEN

Buena Vista Pictures

A Touchstone Pictures/Beacon Pictures presentation

A Mandeville Films/Ashok Amritraj production

Credits: Director: Garry Marshall

Writers: Jack Amiel, Michael Begler

Producers: David Hoberman, Ashok Amritraj

Executive producers: Mario Iscovich, Ellen H. Schwartz

Director of photography: Charles Minsky

Production designer: Steven Jordan

Music: John Debney

Co-producers: Todd Lieberman, Karen Stirgwolt

Costume designer: Gary Jones

Editors: Bruce Green, Tara Timpone

Cast:

Helen Harris: Kate Hudson

Pastor Dan Parker: John Corbett

Jenny Portman: Joan Cusack

Audrey Davis: Hayden Panettiere

Henry Davis: Spencer Breslin

Sarah Davis: Abigail Breslin

Dominique: Helen Mirren

Nilma: Sakina Jaffrey

Ed Portman: Kevin Kilner

Lindsay Davis: Felicity Huffman

Paul Davis: Sean O'Bryan

Running time -- 119 minutes

MPAA rating: PG-13 »

Permalink | Report a problem


Cattrall ices coach role in Dis 'Princess'

6 May 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Kim Cattrall is heading to the rink, signing on to play a former ice skating phenom in the Walt Disney Co.'s Ice Princess. The project, directed by Tim Fywell, is Cattrall's first following her Golden Globe-winning run on HBO's Sex and the City. Cattrall is taking on a role that is quite the opposite of the sexy siren Samantha she played on Sex and the City by portraying an ice skating instructor who at one time had a chance to make the Olympics but now is helping Michelle Trachtenberg's character fulfill her skating dreams. Juliana Cannarozzo, Trevor Blumas and Hayden Panettiere round out the cast. Bridget Johnson is producing the project. Writers on the project include Hadley Davis and Leslie Dixon, the latter of whom penned the most recent version. Karen Glass and Kristin Burr are overseeing the project at the studio. Cattrall is repped by ICM and by attorney Kevin Yorn. Her feature credits include Crossroads and 15 Minutes, opposite Robert De Niro and Ed Burns. Nominated for four Emmys for her performance on Sex, Cattrall took home the Globe in 2003. »

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Disney Channel books 9/11-set 'Cruise'

2 February 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

The Disney Channel has greenlighted an original film set against the backdrop of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Production has begun on Tiger Cruise, a fictional spin on a real-life incident involving a naval carrier called into full combat alert while children and other civilians were on board. First Street Films and Stu Segall Prods. will produce Cruise, with Bill Pullman and Hayden Panettiere in starring roles. Gary Marsh, executive vp original programming and production at Disney Channel, believes the cable network can tackle more serious subject matter without compromising the brand's emphasis on light entertainment. »

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4 items from 2004


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