Reviews > Culture

"Sexy man of God"


Issue: "Iraq: Present and past," June 12, 2004

Raising Helen (PG-13) is about a young woman (Kate Hudson) working in a glamorous model agency who suddenly finds herself with three kids when her sister dies. The movie plays on the difference between the Manhattan club scene and the raising-kids scene.

But the best part of the movie is how it portrays a pastor. The new mom looks for a good school for the kids and finds it in a Lutheran school. The pastor, played by John Corbett, is strong and wise, ministering both to Helen, the rookie mom, and to the still-grieving children, including rescuing the teenage girl from some bad company. In the course of the story, the pastor and Helen fall in love.

This so-called "sexy man of God" is in refreshing contrast to Hollywood's usual portrayal of ministers as either evil hypocrites or ineffectual wimps. Pastor Dan is clearly a man of faith, although the movie does not articulate a lot of the content of that faith. (The funniest scene in this generally serious film is when Helen tries to convince the pastor that she is a Lutheran too, although she clearly is without a clue. The next funniest is when the pastor asks her out and she feels guilty over tempting him to "violate his vows.") And yet, there is a sense in which the movie is very Lutheran, being all about the doctrine of vocation, specifically, what it takes to be a mother.

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Helen has to learn how to be tough; how not to be afraid of a child saying, "I hate you"; how to answer "Why?" by saying, "Because I said so." The other sister (Joan Cusack) is a super-mom, and while she is a comical figure at first, by the end we see just how formidable a mom has to be.

Critics say Raising Helen is cloying and has various other faults. Although they may have a point, the movie is enjoyable and positive (although not for children), representing a post-Passion Hollywood.

Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith


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