Raising Helen is a 2004 American comedy-drama directed by Garry Marshall, starring Kate Hudson, John Corbett, Joan Cusack, Hayden Panettiere, Helen Mirren, Spencer Breslin & Abigail Breslin.


Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about
the entire movie.

Helen Harris (Kate Hudson) and Lindsay (Felicity Huffman) were raised by their sister, Jenny (Joan Cusack) after their mother died when Helen was seven. Now Helen is very successful in the fashion industry, working as the executive assistant to the CEO of one of Manhattan's most prestigious modeling agencies, and now has a nice Manhattan lifestyle which keeps her extremely occupied and content.

But Helen's world suddenly changes when Lindsay and brother-in-law Paul (Sean O'Bryan) die in a car accident, leaving behind three children, turning everyone's life upside down.

Helen and Jenny are in shock when they hear Lindsay and Paul left Helen in charge of their three kids: 15-year-old Audrey (Hayden Panettiere), 10-year-old Henry (Spencer Breslin), and five-year-old Sarah (Abigail Breslin). Nobody expected Helen to be named guardian of the children especially since Jenny was already a super mom with two children and a third on the way, but a letter left to Helen by Lindsay convinces her that she can take care of the children.

Helen decides to do it on her own terms, which means raising the children and maintaining her already fast-paced schedule, but as work and children begin to interfere, Helen quickly finds herself burnt out and disheartened by her responsibilities and Jenny's lack of faith in her parenting.

Despite her already hectic schedule, Helen finds the time to develop a genuine affection for her new dependents, as well as an equally genuine attraction to Dan Parker (John Corbett), the kids' school principal and local Lutheran pastor. Busy trying to appease the children and adjust to suddenly being a mom, Helen's concentration on her job begins to slip and she is fired from Dominique (Helen Mirren).

Stuck between a rock and a hard place, Helen is forced to become a receptionist at a car dealership. Things begin to look better for her as she bonds with the children and their sexy principal, and finally begins to get the hang of being a mom.

But Audrey (who is struggling to come to terms with her parents' death) begins to fall in with the wrong crowd and date the wrong kind of guy. When she disappears from the school prom with her new boyfriend BZ to go find a motel, Helen is forced to call in Jenny as back-up to search all over New York to find Audrey.

Unable to confront Audrey and risk the girl's hatred, once they track her down, Helen turns the parenting reins over to Jenny. This makes Helen realize that she isn't cut out to be a parent and she turns the children over into Jenny's custody.

Helen returns to her wild lifestyle full of partying and booze, but feels much less fulfilled than she had been before she became responsible for the children. She begins to find herself dissatisfied and depressed and so returns to Jenny's house to beg her to let her take the children back home. She eventually convinces Jenny that she's finally ready to be a parent when she puts her foot down and shows Audrey who's boss.

Jenny (who was listening to Helen talking to the children) still refuses to give the kids back to her. Helen leaves and sits alone on a bench near a swing set. There, she is visited once again by Jenny, who gives her the letter that Lindsay had written for Jenny.

Helen reads the letter which explains that Lindsay decided to choose Helen because it's about choosing someone who is more like herself, someone who can really give the children the mother they really want.

While watching out her window, Helen turns around with joy when the kids arrive, now hers. The film ends with Helen, Dan and the kids walking along a pier and Sarah sits on a bench and ties her shoes all by herself.


  • Kate Hudson as Helen Harris (Audrey, Henry & Sarah's aunt)
  • John Corbett as Pastor Dan Parker
  • Joan Cusack as Jenny Portman, Helen's sister (Jasmine & Oliver's mother)
  • Hayden Panettiere as Audrey Davis, Helen's niece
  • Spencer Breslin as Henry Davis, Helen's nephew
  • Abigail Breslin as Sarah Davis, Helen's niece
  • Helen Mirren as Dominique
  • Felicity Huffman as Lindsay Davis, Helen's late sister (Audrey, Henry & Sarah's late mother)
  • Kevin Kilner as Ed Portman, Jenny's husband (Jasmine & Oliver's father)
  • Sakina Jaffrey as Nilma Prasad
  • Joseph Mazzello as Prom Date Peter
  • Sean O'Bryan as Paul Davis, Lindsay's husband (Audrey, Henry & Sarah's late father)
  • Catherine Tayrien as Jasmine Portman, Jenny & Ed's daughter
  • Evan Sabara as Oliver Portman, Jenny & Ed's son
  • Paris Hilton as Amber
  • Amber Valletta as Martina
  • Ethan Browne as Devon
  • Michael Esparza as BZ
  • Katie Carr as Caitlin
  • Hector Elizondo as Mickey Massey
  • Larry Miller as Leo D'Leo
  • Shakara Ledard as Tinka


The movie was filmed from January to May of 2003 in California and New York. In New York, it was shot in the same streets in Queens just like in the movies Spider-Man and It Could Happen to You.

During part of the filming, Kate Hudson was pregnant and near the end of the film, she subconsciously touches her midriff as she is walking.

While filming, director Garry Marshall kept referring to star Kate Hudson as "Goldie." He had worked with Hudson's mother Goldie Hawn on the movie Overboard because he said they looked and acted so much alike.

Hudson was a good sport about it, but the crew put up a box for Marshall to pay $5.00 for every time he called her by the wrong name. By the end of filming, the money in the box provided for a lavish party, thrown by Kate Hudson for the entire crew.

Spencer & Abigail Breslin not only play siblings in the movie, but they are siblings in real life as well.


Box OfficeEdit

"Raising Helen" debuted at #4 at the box office, coming in behind films Shrek 2, The Day After Tomorrow and Troy. In its opening weekend, it grossed $10,985,597.

Domestically, it made $37,486,512 and $49,718,611 worldwide.

Critical ReceptionEdit

"Raising Helen" received negative reviews from critics.

On Rotten Tomatoes, it was given a 23% approval rating based on 128 reviews.

Roger Ebert gave the movie two stars, saying, "Raising Helen is a perfectly pleasant comedy in which nice people do good things despite challenges which are difficult but not excessive. As a pilot for a TV sitcom it would probably be picked up, but it's not compelling enough to involve a trip to the movies. From beginning to end, we've been there, seen that".

Peter Travers from the Rolling Stone said, "Raising Helen is like tumbling into chick-flick hell".


2004 Teen Choice Awards

  • Choice Movie Actress- Comedy: Kate Hudson (nominated)

Theatrical TrailerEdit

Raising Helen Trailer

Raising Helen Trailer

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