Giving over the joystick to the young’uns for a day sounds like a every child’s dream but will the parents enjoy it at all? That’s the question asked by “Yes Day,” a new family comedy now on Netflix, that sees strict parents lighten up and give control to the kids.
Jennifer Garner is Allison, a former free spirit who found Carlos (Edgar Ramirez), her “partner in yes,” while travelling the world. “Yes,” she says, “was the theme of our relationship.” They said yes to bungee jumping, wild adventures and, ultimately, marriage. Burt when the kids came along no became the new yes. Saying no to misbehaving kids is “called parenting,” Allison says. Carlos is a softer touch. “I’m a bad guy all day at work… but when I come home, the kids actually smile when they see me.”
When daughter Katie (Jenna Ortega) writes a haiku for English class describing herself as a caged bird and her mother as a captor, and son Nando (Julian Lerner) makes a video about mom’s oppression—”It’s like 1984 in this house, Mother is always watching!”—they hit on the idea of a Yes day, twenty-four hours where they say yes to everything their kids want. The rules are simple, says yes to everything except murder and anything in the future.
Liberated form the word no and phones and laptops, Allison, Carlos and kids, including six-year-old Ellie (Everly Carganilla), embark on an adventure. Complete with an ice cream eating challenge, water balloons, angry birds (and not the video game kind) and a sopping wet carwash their day is every kid’s wildest fantasy.
But this movie isn’t just about kid chaos. Teachable moments abound and the family is brought together with a new sense of self-confidence and the understanding that sometimes it’s OK for parents to say no.
Based on the children’s book of the same name by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld, “Yes Day” is kind of a “Liar Liar” for kids. A silly, one joke premise, it’s about as engaging as Dolli Dimples, Chuck E. Cheese’s piano playing hippopotamus. That is to say, fun for a minute but as soon as you begin to question the entertainment value of the hippo, the game is up. Same with “Yes Day.” The action leading up to the inevitable moral is kept afloat by likable, peppy performances from Garner (who also produced) and Ramirez, but nonetheless feels contrived and too safe, even for a kid’s flick.