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Thursday, May 27, 2004 12:43 pm

Movie review

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Raising Helen

This Helen will launch a thousand snores

The title figure of Raising Helen (Kate Hudson) lives in a tame version of the fast lane. Executive assistant to the head of a successful modeling agency (Helen Mirren), Helen is on her way to becoming an agent when her life is sidetracked by a tragedy. After a cutesy birthday party for Helen's oldest sister, Lindsay (Felicity Huffman), both Lindsay and her husband are killed in a car accident. Their will requests that young, irresponsible Helen take the kids, much to the dismay of the middle and more motherly sister, Jenny (Joan Cusack). Helen may not be ready for motherhood, as the title suggests, but she has little to fret over: The three kids are hardly troublesome, and they aren't particularly interesting. Other than a prom date that surprisingly ends up at a motel, the situations could have come from Brady Bunch episodes. An unfortunate blandness -- augmented by a drippy score -- envelops the film. It took four writers to come up with a plot that is more predictable than Titanic's. Minor amusing moments are sprinkled throughout, but no one will remember them long enough to tell his or her friends.

The worldview of director Garry Marshall (creator of television's Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley) is so sugary, insulin shots should be provided to the people who see his films. Has there ever been a sweeter prostitute than the one played by Julia Roberts in his biggest hit, Pretty Woman? Hudson's Helen is equally sweet, but this actress is capable of so much more. Her breakthrough role as the groupie Penny Lane in Almost Famous also exuded sweetness, but as a mask for Penny's inner sadness. Hudson can express more with a look than most actresses can with pages of dialogue. Her charm makes Raising Helen bearable, but unlike her mom, Goldie Hawn, she has the range to go beyond light comedic roles. Raising Helen is a feel-good movie, but only if you don't put too much thought into it.

What other critics are saying. . .

The Ladykillers [R] A professor assembles a group of thieves for a casino heist. After they hole up in a sweet old woman's home, they find that she's the biggest threat to their plans. Tom Hanks stars. "The Coens' remake of a comedy classic flounders amid extreme caricatures and strained humor. (Kirk Honeycutt, Hollywood Reporter) Parkway Pointe

Laws of Attraction [PG-13] Two New York City divorce lawyers (Julianne Moore and Pierce Brosnan) fall in love -- after waking up married to one another."Brosnan is devilishly charming; Moore is equally appealing. These two film veterans belong on the screen together just as their characters belong in each other's arms." (Chuck Koplinski, Illinois Times) Parkway Pointe

Man on Fire [R]A former Marine (Denzel Washington) swears vengeance on those who committed an unspeakable act against the family he was hired to protect. "Audiences need to be aware that the violence is intense, but also very creative." (Marc Sigoloff, Illinois Times) ShowPlace East

Mean Girls [PG-13]Cady Heron is a hit with The Plastics, the A-list girl clique at her new school, until she makes the mistake of falling for the ex-boyfriend of alpha Plastic. "You gotta love a film that poses the vital question: 'Is butter a carb?' " (Gregory Weinkauf, New Times newspapers)ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

My Architect [Not rated] Documentary explores the story of noted architect Louis Kahn, who died bankrupt and alone 30 years ago. "A quiet, inspiring study of the vagaries of genius, the blindness of commerce, the pain of family conflicts and the almost sublime power of great architecture or great art." (Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune) Parkway Pointe Art

Shrek 2 [PG] Princess Fiona's parents invite her and Shrek to dinner to celebrate her marriage, not realizing that the newlyweds are green ogres. ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East 

Soul Plane [R] Things get funky on a black-owned airplane thanks to some last-minute passengers. Tom Arnold, Snoop Dogg, Method Man, Kevin Hart, and Monique star.Parkway Pointe

13 Going on 30 [PG-13] A 13-year-old girl plays a game on her 13th birthday and wakes up the next day as a 30-year-old woman (Jennifer Garner). "Jennifer Garner makes the transition from cult-fave TV action icon to full-fledged, ultra-charismatic feature lead in 13 Going on 30." (Joe Leydon, Variety) Parkway Pointe

Troy [R] An adaption of Homer's epic about the siege of Troy by the Greeks. Brad Pitt stars as Achilles. Eric Bana is Hector. Orlando Bloom is Paris."This is The Iliad as a WWE SmackDown: violent fights, snappy insults and a connoisseur's idolatry of beautiful brawn." (Richard Corliss, Time); "Troy, besides being tremendously entertaining, is the best crib-sheet guide to Homer ever." (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone) ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

Van Helsing [PG-13] Legendary 19th century monster hunter Dr. Abraham Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) heads to Eastern Europe to do battle with Count Dracula, the Wolfman, and Frankenstein. "A noisy, 19th-century fantasy adventure that goes nowhere." (Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer) ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

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