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‘Yes Day’ agreeably forgettable family fun

March 15, 2021
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A huge part of being a parent boils down to one simple word: “No.”

Raising children to be functional members of society requires that the adults responsible for their well-being make clear the simple reality that we can’t always get what we want. It’s the way the world works, like it or not … and many kids lean hard toward the “not” in that equation.

This isn’t because parents and guardians LIKE saying no. The truth is that their lives would likely be easier in the short term if they eschewed the word more often, but it is the long term with which they must concern themselves. Like it or not, “no” is a part of parenting.

But what if, for just one day, it wasn’t?

That’s the central premise of “Yes Day,” a Netflix family film based on the children’s book of the same name by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld. Directed by Miguel Arteta, it’s the story of one family’s adventure that takes place when the parents decide to embrace a recent parenting trend involving a single day in which they must say yes to their kids.

It’s a charming, albeit slight film; an agreeable enough hour-and-a-half that likely won’t stay with you after the credits roll. Still, there’s nothing wrong with a kids’ movie that leans into the sensibility of its target demographic. There are some fun moments and a few laughs and a lesson or two ostensibly learned, resulting in an inoffensive family-friendly offering that will go down smoothly.

Allison (Jennifer Garner, “Peppermint”) and Carlos (Edgar Ramirez, TV’s “The Undoing”) made for quite an adventurous pair when they first met. Over the course of their courtship and the earliest part of their marriage, they were willing to embrace opportunities whenever they were presented. Their lives were built around saying yes. But when they had a family, that changed. A world of yes became a morass of no.

Allison has become the naysayer of the family, the one tasked with saying no to their three kids – Katie (Jenna Ortega, “The Babysitter: Killer Queen”), Nando (Julian Lerner, “From Now”) and Ellie (Everly Carganilla, “The Haunted Man”). Carlos, as the legal representative for a tech company, spends his days saying no, so he allows his wife to be the heavy at home.

Neither parent is aware of just how the dynamic has deteriorated until a visit to a parent-teacher conference where their kids’ feelings about them – particularly Allison – are laid bare. Hurt and at a loss, Allison and Carlos find themselves receiving advice from school counselor Mr. Deacon (Nat Faxon, TV’s “Disenchantment”), who shares with them the concept of what he calls a “Yes Day.”

Basically, a “Yes Day” is a single day in which parents must say yes to the requests of their children. Now, obviously there are ground rules and the like, but the spirit of the thing means that the kids are essentially in charge. Despite the initial disbelief of the kids, Allison and Carlos decide to give “Yes Day” a go; Katie, still unconvinced, makes a bet with her mother that if Allison says no, Katie can go to a music festival with her friends and no adult supervision.

And then, it’s off to the races. The kids put together a big list of five things that they want to do, leaving Allison and Carlos little choice but to play along. What follows is delightful chaos – ice cream eating contests and paintball fights and windows-down car washes – with the family actually growing closer amidst the absurdity of it all.

Of course, it’s never that easy. And when circumstances lead to the kids getting in over their heads in various circumstances, it is up to the adults in the room to save the day, all while trying to maintain a hold on the lessons learned from a day of yeses.

“Yes Day” is … fine. Yes, it’s formulaic and predictable, offering a dearth of surprises. Even the logistical leaps taken throughout feel utterly expected. But it’s also a charming look at a family driven by love; even the conflicts manage to avoid being genuinely mean-spirited, instead focusing on the importance of communication and making efforts toward fairness. It’s middle-of-the-road fare – it won’t blow your hair back, but neither will it leave you feeling cheated. It’s a perfectly cromulent family film, a movie that will occupy you and yours for precisely the length of its 86-minute running time and not a second more.

Honestly? You could do a lot worse.

Garner and Ramirez both seem very comfortable here. Sure, the film feels a bit tossed-off, but neither of the adult leads give the impression of believing themselves to be above the material. They’re pros and it shows, with some stretches that give every impression of the actors having real fun. The kids are charming as well; Ortega’s clearly a talented performer, while Lerner captures a delightful nerdy energy and Carganilla is straight-up adorable. The supporting cast – highlighted by Faxon and an extended cameo from Fortune Feimster (who seems to pop up in every third Netflix original) – generally handles its business.

“Yes Day” isn’t the best or most original movie you’re ever going to see. It will all feel very familiar to anyone who has spent any time watching family-friendly films. But here’s the thing – that’s OK. You’re probably not looking for groundbreaking, paradigm-shattering cinema from a kiddie flick produced by Netflix. On the other hand, if you’re looking for an inoffensive distraction to share with your kids for an hour-and-a-half, then you can feel confident in saying yes to “Yes Day.”

[2.5 out of 5]

Last modified on Monday, 15 March 2021 10:08

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