After seeing the trailer for the upcoming family comedy “Yes Day” I immediately wondered if the two likable leads could make the movie’s otherwise shaky premise more appealing. After all it stars the ever-pleasant Jennifer Garner who makes credit card commercials charming and the talented, often underappreciated Édgar Ramirez. Without question both make the movie better, but carrying the movie especially through its loud and contrived second half proves to be a tough task.
Garner and Ramirez play Allison and Carlos Torres. From the day they first met their relationship has been full of excitement and they would say “Yes” to every adventure that would come their way. Now happily married with three children, things are a lot different. Now it seems like they’re always telling their kids “No”. Some of it is just good responsible parenting. But there’s no denying their sense of adventure has fizzled. Allison takes the brunt of their children’s frustrations, to the point of being branded “fun killer” by their oldest daughter Katie (Jenna Ortega) and compared to Mussolini and Stalin by their son Nando (Julian Lerner).
In need of a jump-start, Allison and Carlos take the advice of a kooky school guidance counselor, teacher, and coach (a funny but overused Nat Faxon) and decide to have a ‘Yes Day’. The idea is that for 24 hours the parents must say “Yes” to everything their kids ask with a few rules of course. It has to be legal. They can’t ask for something in the future. Requests have to stay within a 20-mile radius and so on. The Torres five set out to rekindle their spark during a day of silly fun and family bonding. And who knows, through it all both sides may come to better understand the other.
Directed by Miguel Arteta from a script by Justin Malen, “Yes Day” starts with a lot of promise as it introduces its characters through some cute family moments and some pretty funny family-oriented humor. Even the first couple of stops on their ‘Yes Day’ journey are sweet and smile-worthy. But in a snap Artera amps things up past 100 and the rest of the movie plays out to a lot of screaming, scenes of over-the-top mayhem, more screaming, some really cheap humor (gas gags, a crotch shot, it’s all here), and even more screaming. I quickly realized I was grimacing much more than grinning.
The ending scrambles to get back to the sweetness and charm of the earlier moments, but the high-volume silliness and the artery-clogging cheese that comes before it makes it hard to readjust. It’s unfortunate because Garner and Ramirez have a delightful chemistry and the movie gets off on a good foot. Who knows, maybe there is enough good-natured, big-hearted fun for kids to enjoy on a rainy Saturday afternoon. But that doesn’t shake the feeling that this could have been a lot better. “Yes Day” is now streaming on Netflix.
VERDICT – 2.5 STARS