The new Netflix released family film “Yes Day”, comes a year into the Covid pandemic and while it’s a nice a reminder of the fun that families will be having in due time. “Yes Day” comes about half a year too late, as it would have been the perfect movie we could have used and needed when families were in lock down together.
Director Miguel Arteta started his career with R rated indies like the Jennifer Aniston and Jake Gyllenhaal film, “The Good Girl” (which still remains his best work). But in 2014, Arteta took on the challenge of trying his hand at family entertainment with “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”. The Disney film was a surprising achievement from the helmer, who found a wonderful balance of slapstick and heart, headlined by two wonderful lead actors.
Arteta has since returned to R rated fare in the past few years with the critically acclaimed “Beatriz At Dinner” and last years box office bomb “Like A Boss”. Arteta has decided to take a break once again from adult oriented entertainment to return to something for the family, with the fun and predictable family comedy “Yes Day”. Based on the 2009 book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld. Arteta’s movie is very clearly made for children in the Disney and Nickelodeon crowd, but is still a lot of fun for the adults in remaining charming, fun and heartfelt.
The Torres family is run by mom Allison (Jennifer Garner “Peppermint”), who always prided herself on saying “yes” to everything. Whether it was skydiving or adventuring in foreign lands, she was open to giving anything a go. That included marriage and having children, especially after falling in love with someone with a similar outlook on life with Carlos (Edgar Ramirez “Domino”). Times though, have changed with three children in the Torres household and now that Allison is a parent, “no” is the new yes.
Things reach a head at a parent-teacher conference, when both a haiku and video project is presented from separate children comparing their mother to Stalin and Mussolini. Chastened and embarrassed, Allison is desperate to find a solution that will improve everyone’s happiness level and make her the “fun” mom again. That’s when the school’s guidance counselor introduces her to the concept of a Yes Day. For 24 hours, she and Carlos will have to agree to everything the kids want to do, as long as it’s nothing dangerous and illegal and all their chores and schoolwork are squared away beforehand. Deciding to embrace the potential chaos, Allison prepares herself for anything her trio can throw at her, or at least she thinks so.
Arteta gives “Yes Day” a blitz fast story that unfolds at a pace designed to keep up kids’ short attention spans. With the films go-go pacing, the titular experience of the Yes Day kicks off pretty quickly at the start of the film. The kids present a “big ask” list that provides a plan of attack for the day. The family does everything from visiting an ice cream parlor and devouring a towering “gut buster” dessert, to riding through a car wash with the windows down. They also experience a “kablowey” contest, taking part in a capture-the-flag game that is shot if it were a re-enactment of “Apocalypse Now”.
“Yes Day” loses steam as it spirals towards it’s third act, with a carnival game showdown between Allison and a rival parent. Before seeing a climax as Katie readies herself to attend a music festival, where the 14-year old will be interacting with older boys and middle child Nando organizes a “nerd party”, planning to trigger a massive baking soda volcano. What’s so great about “Yes Day” is the diversity, this is where a lot of family films need to improve and can certainly learn from “Yes Day”.
Miguel Arteta reteams him with his “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” star, Jennifer Garner. She gives an all-in performance when it comes to her motherly reactions to the juvenile mayhem. It’s a very lively performance and it’s clear that Garner’s having lots of fun with the feature. Garner has always been a pro at unleashing her inner child in a moment’s notice, but she is also believable as the overstressed planner of a blended family.
As the cool Dad, Edgar Ramírez is usually playing the macho action star, but here he’s stretching out of his comfort zone. Ramírez does well in cooking up a slew of mishaps and physical comedy antics including his run-in with a protective mother bird. Seeing Ramírez in “Yes Day” made me crave to see him in more roles like this.
“Yes Day” doesn’t get too much into the dramatic depth of things. Arteta also doesn’t conjure too many tear jerky feelings with the endeavor, instead looking for a broader viewing experience. While it would make a great double feature with “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”. Arteta’s latest, still doesn’t manage to be another gem like “Alexander”. While the film is predictable and you can pinpoint the type of positive messaging a mile away.
That doesn’t mean that “Yes Day” is a time waster, because it certainly isn’t. It’s got three winning leads in Garner, Ramírez and Jenna Ortega (playing oldest daughter Katie) and it’s a short hour an half of boisterous fun. I wouldn’t be surprised if families bond over this one and decide to do their own yes day. You certainly can do a lot worse than spending an evening with your kids in saying yes to “Yes Day”.
GRADE: ★★★☆☆ (3 out of 5)