The 400-Word Review: Yes Day
By Sean Collier
March 18, 2021
Jennifer Garner, in a promotional video hyping Netflix’s upcoming slate, seemed perfectly sincere when talking about her starring vehicle “Yes Day.”
“I love making a movie my whole family can watch,” she said. Garner, who also has a production credit on the film, might have missed the point — inasmuch as the barely-there “Yes Day” has a point. The moral of this limp fable is that parents should trust their kids and not attempt to shelter them unnecessarily.
That trust does not extend to movies, apparently. Because “Yes Day” is an utterly sanitized version of a family movie, the kind of entertainment designed first and foremost to avoid any moment of upsetting, challenging or otherwise interesting content.
The film, a veritable mining expedition for fossilized sitcom cliches, concerns a pair of suburban parents (Garner and Edgar Ramirez), their alleged edges long since sanded by the requirements of family life. He’s wrapped up in his job at a gadget company, she’s the stay-at-home parent forced to play bad cop, so on and so forth. When they realize their brood has begun resenting them — quelle surprise — they schedule the titular Yes Day, a concept by which parents must agree to all of their children's demands for 24 hours.
This leads to a muted facsimile of wildness, as the children — played by Jenna Ortega, Julian Lerner and Everly Carganilla — request benign indulgences like early-morning ice cream, an elaborate capture-the-flag game and a trip through the car wash with the windows rolled down. (That counts as the film’s only transgression, anyway; there’s surely something in there that’s going to scald.)
Instances of conflict are momentary. The nominal climax occurs when the eldest goes off to a concert, which looks as though it were filmed at a church carnival, unsupervised, sending Mom into paroxysms of terror. (The younger kids create a harmless foam flood back at home.)
“Yes Day” doesn’t have the gumption to stick to its lesson, as the utterly peaceful concert does prove too intimidating for the 14-year-old, leading to a tearful reunion. The tell-don’t-show, limp screenplay (from Justin Malen) isn’t even the cardinal sin; that would be the utter lack of humor in this theoretical comedy.
So no, Jennifer, this isn’t a movie to watch with the whole family. They’ll resent being made to sit through a joyless, tentative mess. Maybe let the kids pick their own movie?
My Rating: 1/10
“Yes Day” is streaming on Netflix.