'Yes Day' Is a No Directed by Miguel Arteta

Starring Jennifer Garner, Edgar Ramirez, Jenna Ortega, Julian Lerner, Everly Carganilla
'Yes Day' Is a No Directed by Miguel Arteta
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Miguel Arteta's Yes Day feels as if its premise — and, for that matter, the premise of the children's book source material by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld — was inspired by a viral parenting blog trend that had its moment of relevance come and go. The idea is relatively simple: for a 24-hour period, you let your stern parental morals rest and give your children anything they ask for.

The once-free-spirited Allison Torres (Jennifer Garner) has come to realize the stress and responsibility of raising three rambunctious kids has effectively snuffed out her ability to have fun. Where once she said "yes" to every adventurous idea (impulsive sky-diving, rock climbing, world travel) and lived life without inhibitions, her life is now dominated by telling her ever-disappointed kids "no."

Tired of her offspring viewing her as a controlling dictator and having her affable husband Carlos (Edgar Ramirez, cast delightfully against type) being the lenient favourite, she grants her children a "yes day," where they call all the shots and the parents just have to go with the chaotic flow.

Yes Day then engages in a series of obnoxiously twee set pieces propped up by amusing montages and on-the-nose soundtrack selections that numb you with their ardent sincerity and predictable, family-friendly comedic beats. They have an ice cream eating contest for breakfast, drive through a carwash with the windows down, and play an elaborate capture-the-flag/paintball game with dozens of strangers — all while Allison, Carlos and the kids learn their respective lessons about the two-way street that is parenting.

The best you can say of Arteta's run-of-the-mill family comedy is that it is utterly benign. It's story beats and characters are comfortably familiar (bordering on predictable), its jokes are telegraphed and aggressively wholesome to a fault, and everything is carried by committed performances by an aggressively chipper Garner, a frazzled Ramirez, and a supporting cast of comedic personalities like Nat Faxon, Fortune Feimster and Arturo Castro, who inject as much life as possible into the pallid material they are given. At times, Yes Day can effectively endear itself to you with how utterly innocuous its broad-appeal brand of family comedy can be.

Yet, outside of a quaint distraction for your own rambunctious tykes, Yes Day is anodyne to a fault. While the quirky premise is amusing at first, the film gradually suffocates with its incessant keenness and bland jokes. It suggests that the Torres family's brief experiment with radical parenting brings them all closer together, but the characters never feel grounded enough for any kind of lesson to take, and the film is so devoid of conflict that no one would care even care if it did. A series of fun, goofy mishaps happen to or are instigated by this affable suburban family all in the name of "Yes Day" — and then the credits roll to the tune of another upbeat pop song.

Ultimately, it leaves little impact, and, much like the many articles of new parenting techniques that invade the blogosphere that likely inspired it, Yes Day is quickly consumed and forgotten. If this idea didn't work for Jim Carrey, I don't see how it could for the director of Chuck and Buck. (Netflix)