The Movie Guru: “Yes Day” predictable but sweet
There’s a certain kind of family movie that lets you know exactly what you’re getting before you start watching it.
A brief glance at the trailer is usually all you need to tell you that the movie will be 1: completely inoffensive, even for small children; 2: probably based on a kid’s book; 3: full of physical comedy; and 4: will deliver some heartwarming moral. They’re basically Hallmark movies for kids, and they fill a very specific ecological niche in the movie world. Even if you’ve never seen one, you probably already know in advance whether or not you have any patience for them.
Though it’s firmly situated in that category, “Yes Day” is well-made enough to be surprisingly appealing. There’s not a lot of plot here, but heartfelt performances and light, breezy direction carry along an emotional through-line that has a little something for both kids and adults. You’ll forget the movie the moment it’s done, but you’ll have a pleasant experience on the way to the credits.
Based on a children’s book, “Yes Day” follows a set of parents (Jennifer Garner and Edgar Ramirez) who used to be fun but changed because of work and parental responsibilities. Pressure from their kids lead to the declaration of a “yes day,” which is one day where the parents say yes to anything the kids ask for (within reason). As the day progresses, however, both the kids and adults will learn that it’s important to balance both fun and responsibility.
It’s not the most promising premise for a movie, and the trailer doesn’t do a lot to change minds in that area. But Garner and Ramirez are both likable and relatable, and you immediately sympathize with the issues they’re dealing with. That helps make their rediscovery of their “fun” selves far more believable than it might be, and they’re cute enough together that the resolution of their (very slight) marital issues is heartwarming.
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The kids come off as more annoying, at least at first (possibly because I’m old), but kids will likely immediately relate to their individual plights. They also learn their own lessons, which isn’t a given for this type of movie, and there are moments of crisis that were surprisingly relatable. The youngest one is just precocious cuteness, but they use her sparingly enough that she doesn’t become grating.
There’s a light sprinkling of bathroom humor for the kids, some goofy outfits (prominently featured in the trailer), science fair-style chaos and a fight over a stuffed monkey. But the slapstick stays just on the right side of too much, and parents might find a few moments of catharsis in a semi-implausible paintball fight. Even better, there are some genuinely heartwarming moments sprinkled in.
If you already know you don’t like this type of movie, stay away. But if you’re already a connoisseur of the genre, then say “yes” to “Yes Day.”
Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rated: PG for some rude and suggestive material, and brief language
Screen story/screenplay by: Justin Malen, based on the book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld
Directed by: Miguel Arteta
Starring: Jennifer Garner, Edgar Ramírez, Jenna Ortega, Julian Lerner, Everly Carganilla, Tracie Thoms, Fortune Feimster, Nat Faxon, Arturo Castro, and more
Grade: Two and a half stars (out of four)