[Screen It]


(2021) (Jennifer Garner, Edgar Ramirez) (PG)

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Dramedy: To prove they can still be fun and not always say "no," a mom and dad agree to give their three kids a "yes day" where they must say agree to every request.

Once upon a time, Allison (JENNIFER GARNER) and Carlos Torres (EDGAR RAMIREZ) were a fun couple who said yes to every opportunity and adventure that crossed their paths. And then they had kids and quickly turned into over-protective parents who were always saying no to keep their children safe. But with Carlos at the office during the day and then being the fun parent when he comes home, Allison is now the "bad cop" in the eyes of 14-year-old Katie (JENNA ORTEGA) and 11-year-old Nando (JULIAN LERNER), although their younger sister, Ellie (EVERLY CARGANILLA), hasn't yet gotten to the point of viewing her mom as a dictator.

Allison and Carlos learn that their two oldest view her that way after talking with their kids' teachers, and then get advice from the school's guidance counselor who says he has a happy household due to giving his kids an occasional "yes day." That's when they get whatever they want -- within preset parameters and limits -- and the parents can't say no. Allison and Carlos initially think that's a crazy idea, but eventually decide to go for it. With a bet between Allison and Katie -- where the teen will end up attending a concert with her mom or her friends being on the line -- Allison and Carlos prepare themselves to say yes, all while their kids put them to the test.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10

For the past month or so, we've had two now four-month-old kittens in our house. They're cute, energetic, and like mini combos of Freddy Krueger, Wolverine, and Edward Scissorhands, what with those tiny but razor-sharp claws. I'm fairly certain they now know their new names, but they're probably confused at times because the one thing they're constantly hearing is "No!"

We're somewhat liberal when it comes to what they can do, but for their safety and ours, that negative command is used frequently enough in their presence that I'm surprised they don't come running when either my wife or I yell that out.

Of course, most parents -- be they of fur babies or, you know, the human variety -- are familiar with using that word, all in the means of protection and safety. And with enough repetition, such "don't do that" expressions become associated with the parent issuing them. All of which, at least in human kids, results in feelings of dealing with repressive killjoys and dictators.

Author Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrator Tom Lichtenheld addressed that in their 2009 book "Yes Day" (that I have not read) that's now been adapted into a feature-length film by screenwriter Justin Malen. While I don't know the full details of the hows and why of that script being written, I'm guessing it had something to do with actress Jennifer Garner posting an "I'm exhausted" selfie on Instagram in the fall of 2017 with the wording "You'll never need coffee more than the day after "Yes Day!"

Whatever the case, Garner now gets to relive her family tradition by playing the "I said no" mom in this dramedy offering that could appeal to younger kids, but doesn't take advantage of all the built-in potential that comes with the premise. In short, Garner plays Allison Torres, the stay-at-home mom to three kids -- Jenna Ortega as Katie, Julian Lerner as Nando, and Everly Carganilla as Ellie -- who she's had with her lawyer husband, Carlos (Edgar Ramírez).

With him being the "no guy" at work, he likes being the fun dad when he returns home, all of which leaves their oldest writing some haiku about how mean mom is and their middle child making a video comparing her to Stalin and Mussolini (ouch!). Hearing from the school guidance counselor who informs Allison and Carlos that his family is tight due to him and his wife giving their kids a "yes day," our paternal protagonists decide to do the same.

But only on the condition that they do their chores and get good grades, and that any of their "yes day" wishes don't break any laws or limbs or come with requests associated with the future (such as adding some fur babies to the mix). With that established, and once the alarm rings on the special day, the shenanigans begin.

Or they're supposed to. While director Miguel Arteta keeps things lively and moving along at a good clip, the wishes aren't that remarkable. Granted, they might be what some real-life kids would similarly request (an ice cream-eating extravaganza, a Kool-Aid water balloon battle, etc.) but that doesn't make for great cinema. Instead, everything has a sitcom-style vibe, along with crude humor and three scenes featuring male testicles taking more impact than they're designed for.

That aside, the result is an innocuous enough offering that most families can watch together, with some important life lessons thrown in for good measure. But with not enough imagination or creativity and the likelihood of kids seeing this and wanting their own "yes day," I can imagine many a parent might want to say "No!" to "Yes Day." It rates as a 5 out of 10.

Reviewed March 24, 2021 / Posted March 26, 2021

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