Raising Helen [2004]

Kate Hudson wrestles with unlikely motherhood in Raising Helen, a comedy directed with the smooth professionalism of Garry Marshall, the man who brought us such cinematic fairy tales as Pretty Woman and The Princess Diaries. Helen (Hudson, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days) is an adorable hipster whose swift rise up the fashion industry ladder gets sideswiped when she finds herself responsible for raising three children, left in her care by the untimely death of one of her sisters. It's a standard frivolous-girl-grows-up story with an uneven script, but solidly performed by Hudson, John Corbett (My Big Fat Greek Wedding), ever-sexy Helen Mirren (Calendar Girls), and especially Joan Cusack (In and Out, Addams Family Values), who takes an obnoxious, uptight suburban mom and makes her the movie's emotional core. It's a miracle of acting alchemy; Cusack is one of contemporary comedy's most crucial performers. --Bret Fetzer

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