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Movie Review | Why you should say no way to 'Yes Day'

I'd take the kids to the park instead of watching this tepid family comedy.
Credit: Netflix

ST. LOUIS — In a preview of their 2021 content, Netflix featured actors and filmmakers talking about their films, including Regina King and Dave Bautista. Jennifer Garner promoted her new film, "Yes Day," where two parents allow their kids to be the boss (within reason) for 24 hours. She said it was nice to make a movie her whole family could watch. Next time, Jennifer, make a better one.

While "Yes Day" isn't a complete waste of time, there are a lot of laughs left on the table. Garner and Edgar Ramirez (who looks like he was kidnapped from a much better movie) do their best to smile through it, but the script from Justin Malen doesn't show us anything new or that interesting. Adapted from the best-selling novel by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld, the setup here is plain and the jokes don't even sneak out of middle school. At one point, I laughed a little bit just to ensure that I was awake. I'm guessing the book was much better.

Miguel Arteta, who has directed solid films like "The Good Girl" and "Youth in Revolt," is lost in network sitcom territory here, showing zero flash or leaving a mark that viewers know was his film. There isn't really something missing in the plot. All the kid actors are subpar at best, emoting just enough to get a response out of Garner's tired, "used to be fun" mom, thus pushing the thankfully 86-minute film to its finish.

There was a better way to make this film, but that wouldn't bring in more viewers and clicks for Netflix. The PG rating here drowns any enjoyment out of the experience for anyone above the age of 12. The problem with "Yes Day" is the superficial gloss that covers the entire film, creating a world where moms and dads don't curse or act a little nutty. When parents watch this with their kids, they need a little raunchy language-and there is none to be found. If you're going to serve up a fast food pancake with extra syrup even on streaming, make sure the hash browns are at least halfway inspired.

Leslie Mann would have brought a high-caliber sass level to the script, and enlivened it. Garner has that speed in her arsenal somewhere, but she's just too loving and nice here. Maybe she just left one of her credit card commercial sets, and just walked next door to film this role. Going through the motions would be the description. She, like almost every person participating in this film, is better than this. I liked Ramirez better in that overlong, kind-of-bad, hyper-stylized action flick for Netflix last year. A man with gravitas to spare and real presence onscreen is lost here. Nat Faxon is the only person who generates laughs here, but it's not enough to recommend.

Bottom Line: If you can't find 30 other titles to watch on Netflix or can find just enough value in staring at Jennifer Garner for 80 minutes, go ahead and click play on "Yes Day." It won't bite. Just don't expect much quality from quality players. I'd just watch "13 Going on 30" instead.