Directed by Garry Marshall, starring Kate Hudson, John Corbett, Joan Cusack, Hayden Panettiere, Abigail Breslin, Spencer Breslin and Felicity Huffman

Starring Kate Hudson as the eponymous heroine, 'Raising Helen' is a wildly uneven comedy that wears its sitcom heart on its sleeve. The story - aspiring fashionista's career is wrecked when she gets appointed guardian of her sister's three orphaned children - is something which could have had legs over a season or so of half-hour episodes. But, this being made for the big screen, there's no such luxury of gradual characterisation, work versus parenting foul-ups and eventual rehabilitation. Helen must see the light in less than two hours. 

'Raising Helen' starts with a run-through of a day in Helen's glamorous Manhattan life: upwardly mobile at work, able to walk straight to the top of nightclub lines, sexy men at her beckoning, even managing a quick trip to the sticks for her sister Lindsay's (Huffman) birthday. Life is wonderful, until Lindsay and her husband are killed in a car accident. Rather than give custody of their three children - 15-year-old Audrey (Panettiere), 10-year-old Henry (Breslin) and 5-year-old cute-factor Sarah (Breslin) - to older sister and professional mom Jenny (Cusack), Lindsay's will specifies Helen to be their guardian. 

With her mind more on Ugg boots than childcare, Helen nevertheless makes a game try of motherhood, moving to Queens and enrolling the kids in a Lutheran school, which brings her in contact with hip, "sexy man of God" Pastor Dan (Corbett). The stage set, it only remains for Helen to show exactly how inept a parent she can be in a series of predictable set pieces.

As Kate Hudson does little but drift prettily through the film, the real acting chops in 'Raising Helen' belong to the always wonderful and here wasted Joan Cusack. A supporting actor veteran, Cusack manages to give depth and empathy to her bossy, unsympathetic role. But she stands alone. Three one-dimensional kids and John Corbett reprising the same bland love-interest character as in 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' do not a good movie make.

Best avoided.

Caroline Hennessy