Directed By Miguel Arteta
Starring – Jennifer Garner, Edgar Ramirez, Jenna Ortega
The Plot – Always feeling like they have to say “no” to their kids, Allison (Garner) and Carlos (Ramirez) decide to give their three kids a “Yes Day,” during which the kids have 24 hours to make the rules.
Rated PG for some rude and suggestive material, and brief adult language
– Springing humor. Trudging through these familiar family rompers rarely brings an effectiveness to gags that I find consistently charming, but there’s an endearing quality to the material imbedded that maintains an infectiously persistent good time, despite the corniness that it chooses to embrace. Most of it stems from the dedication to craft from the delightfully talented ensemble cast, but for my money it’s the abundance in material that never keeps expectations grounded, and constantly allows unique ways for the characters to play towards the environment. Visual gags, clever play on words, and an all around enveloping mayhem to the created day before us, collectively plays into the lighthearted charms that make it all the more impossible not to express engagement throughout the heat of the narrative, instilling a feel good time that logically remains grounded without getting lost in the fantastical elements that could’ve come with such a risky proposition.
– Connective cinematography. The work behind the lens from Terry Stacey feels especially tapped in to the very atmosphere and endless energy that remains prominent throughout a majority of the film. In choosing a handheld design, complete with navigation movements and long takes between deliveries of dialogue between multiple characters, the film manages to bottle as much of the excitement in the sequences as possible, all the while immersing us with an on-the-ground approach which attains a near three-dimensional quality of detection with the many objects flying in and out of frame at any given time. Stacey’s influence in physicality captures all that needs to be documented without sacrificing the element of clarity for the rapid fire movements, and captures the essence and velocity associated with being a kid that infects characters of every size, shape, and age with the good time that was promised.
– Excellent casting. There is no doubt what so ever that Garner and Ramirez are the perfect parents who every other parent should be reaching to attain. I say this, of course, because their work and stellar chemistry deposited toward the film outlines an attitude in approach that pushed each of them to get lost in the fun and excitement of their respective roles. It’s unique enough that each of them transform into polar opposites by the film’s end, rewarding them with the missing piece that distorted their once familiar identities, but the real kicker is how each of them don’t even remotely flinch through lines of dialogue that are unintentionally laughable at best, and desperately trendy at worst. Aside from them, the surrounding ensemble offers plenty of unique cameos with an array of bizarre personalities and one-off deliveries that coherently stir the pot, and play into the unraveling madness with scene-stealing instances of resonating glee. The always alluring Nat Faxon is especially the unspoken M.V.P, popping up frequently along the way with a character who is literally and figuratively the everyman of this small town.
– Cultural heritage. One unique aspect to the characterization of this family, which I found especially respectful is the desire to imbed some of the dialogue in Spanish translation, in order to honor the influence of the father’s side of the family. This is an often forgotten or overlooked element of production within a movie featuring two spouses of diverse geographic background, and one that this film too could’ve reduced in value, but I appreciate Arteta’s agenda to illustrate a fully lived-in quality to the characters he invests in. These moments of bi-lingual distinction are saved for the moments when the family seem most in trouble, and need to reflect in their own personal bubble while in public. Each character can coherently speak and translate, each doing so with a warranted degree of believability, and as someone who competently speaks Spanish, I am glad to see the on-screen text of translations is completely correct. It’s one of the many charms that this film attains in reaching for a contemporary voice that is every bit progressive as it is honorable, making me all the more grateful that these were the characters written for the picture.
– Unoriginal gimmick. If anyone has seen Jim Carrey’s “Yes Man”, you will be able to sniff out this plot and any element of uncertainty within it almost immediately. Here, they’ve basically just taken that idea and reduced it to a child’s vantage point, adding nothing originally compelling along the way to making it personal to this unique age bracket. In addition to this, the rules themselves inside of the game aren’t explained well enough to limit a series of holes and contrivances that pop up almost everywhere. Such an instance is with the car wash or party sequences, to which earlier the script said the wishes can’t have a lasting effect beyond the day designated as the Yes Day. Considering an electronic car is going through a car wash with the windows down, I think it’s safe to say this will have a lasting effect on the functions of the automobile. Likewise, the house full of rambunctious and destructive children will likely not be fixed over the course of a couple of hours.
– Uneven pacing. At a measly 80 minutes of screen time, “Yes Day” is riddled with a series of problems in its pacing and sequencing that are jarring on the experience to say the least. For starters, the film can’t escape this mostly rush quality of storytelling that never takes enough time to wear the weight of its effects between each wish. This also abruptly pushes along the plot during the initial first act in a way that is obvious and cheaply rendered in the context of the problems that this family are supposedly having. From here, the three act structure is viciously distributed between a first act that is around 15 minutes, a second act that is around 25, and a third act that is the remaining 40. This wouldn’t be a problem if the film’s plot set up some semblance of long term family drama within this dynamic, but it doesn’t, and only sells drama in the form of a temporary conflict that any audience can see through if they’ve seen a film where the teenage daughter is trying to grow up too fast. For my money, the film could’ve used another twenty minutes to better pace itself within each respective wish, and instill some levity within a film that is constantly speeding towards a red light.
– Humiliating dialogue. Another example of a movie written by a group of adults who think they know how children and teenagers talk, but instead just mash together as many pop culture phrases as possible to tap into their cool factor. In 1998 this was a fully functional cliche, so by 2021, this is reaching levels of tired frustration that are none the more urgent in their toxicity since hundreds of installments along the way have padded the folder that stitches each of them together. For this installment, we get a music festival named FleekFest (I’m serious), children who use the term “Fresh” to describe a situation or piece of news that satisfies them, and many other instances where the adults of the production soaked up as much MTV as they possibly could toward gaining a nugget of knowledge about contemporary culture. This film is easily one of the heaviest offenders in this regard, and clearly points out to the depth of the problem when you consider that I literally clapped each time a wish of the children’s came true, because I knew it would result in little dialogue exchanged between them.
– Irresponsible framing. This is not only with the movie’s plot, which shames parents for saying no to their kids for the responsibility of their well-being and the household alike, but also in the many devices the film uses in outlining them literally as a dictator similar to Adolph Hitler or Benito Mussolini (That legitimately happens in the film). These parents are made to feel like they’re out of touch, and the bad guys, when they have virtually given up their lives to provide endlessly for these spoiled kids. Speaking of spoiled, another instance involves the oldest daughter flipping out at Garner’s character for searching through her phone after she has suspicion that a boy is trying to get her alone at a concert. Garner’s character bought the phone, so why does the movie make her out to be something bad because she seeks answers in trying to protect her daughter? This is a persistent problem in film and TV shows, and one that I wish writers would take caution with, as I feel it not only sends the wrong message to impressionable minds, but also underscores the measures of adult protagonists, which are responsibly warranted in their intention.
– Blandly predictable. By the film’s closing moments, you are sort of left with the reality that this film went entirely the direction that you expected it to, without even a shred of unconventional, unforeseen instances to bear permanence on the wisdom of every character who eventually learns. In fact, the climax of the movie between Garner and Ortega is so condensed of such little creative wiggle room that you know the where, why, and how of the predicament, and simultaneously just wait for each of them within the storytelling to catch up to you along the way. It’s my opinion that this mostly slapstick comedy could’ve used an underlining of dramatic heft late in the third act. Doing so would’ve not only allowed audiences to invest in character well-being in ways they weren’t privy to throughout the film, but it also would’ve played into the learning aspect by the kid characters, to which the movie is almost completely void of.
My Grade: 5/10 or D+