Anyone who has/had parents or is a parent (yep, that's everyone!) will be able to relate in some way to Allison and Carlos Torres (Jennifer Garner and Edgar Ramírez). In their younger years, they were both adventurous and fun-loving "yes" people, willing to try new, sometimes crazy, things and live life to its fullest. That's how they met and fell in love, eventually getting married. Then, they became parents and "no" became the more operative word as they established house rules in order to keep their kids safe and healthy.
"Yes Day" is a new family comedy directed by Miguel Arteta, based on the beloved children's book of the same title by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld. It introduces us to the three Torres kids: 14-year-old Katie (Jenna Ortega), middle-schooler/science geek, Nando (Julian Lerner), and pre-schooler Ellie (Everly Carganilla). They seem to be normal kids who get into normal trouble, spend too much time on their screens, and try dangerous stunts (like repelling down the side of the house with a rope made from bedsheets). Any parent would say "no" to those kinds of things, right?
The Torres Family in Yes Day. © 2021 Netflix. All Rights Reserved.
Unaware that she has become a "no" person, Allison gets a wakeup call at parent-teacher night. Katie has written a haiku about how awful and restrictive her mother is and Nando made a video for social studies class comparing his mother to historical dictators. As she and Carlos are walking the school halls discussing this revelation, Mr. Deacon (Nat Faxon), making tater tots in the school kitchen, invites them in for a little chat. He suggests they give their kids a "Yes Day," a 24-hour period where the kids make the rules and the parents have to say yes to every request.
There are conditions, though. A Yes Day has to be earned so chores have to get done and grades have to improve. A Yes Day also has rules. Nothing in the future, such as "can we get a dog?". Nothing illegal or dangerous. So, the kids come up with a "Big Ask" list – five things they want to do on Yes Day.
It doesn't take much imagination to conjure up a picture of the wild and crazy ride the Torres family takes when Yes Day finally rolls around. All starts off well, with fun and games (and parental makeovers courtesy of Ellie), but as the day progresses, the strains in their relationships surface. Can Allison and Carlos loosen up for a bit and can Katie, Nando, and Ellie learn a bit more responsibility? Will the family grow closer from this experience?
The family gets ready to Kablowey in Yes Day. © 2021 Netflix. All Rights Reserved.
Jennifer Garner, a mom herself, and no stranger to playing moms onscreen (see "Miracles from Heaven" or "The Odd Life of Timothy Green"), inhabits Allison with a hilariously explosive mixture of caring mom and "psycho mom" that is super fun to watch. Ramírez plays dad Carlos in an understated way as the "fun part" of the parental pair. Jenna Ortega gets teen angst down really well, Lerner captures the impish personality of his character, and youngster Everly Carganilla could melt the most hardened heart as she portrays her young character's innocence and loving nature with such sweetness.
I find it refreshing that the family in "Yes Day" includes Hispanic characters, which are so often underrepresented in the film industry.
"Yes Day," while being plenty fun for kids, is also a reminder for parents to a) be on the same page when it comes to rules and discipline, b) remember what it was like when you were a kid so you don't get overprotective, and c) how important it is to spend family time together, having fun but also celebrating each other, ritualizing important moments, and helping kids to grow into mature human beings by letting them make mistakes and loving them through the process of learning from those mistakes.
Practically speaking, a full-blown Yes Day with a Kablowey match might or might not be right for your family. You will have to decide that, but Netflix has produced a family activities guide to go along with the film that has some great suggestions for family fun time. You can check out the Family Activity Book here. For Catholic audiences, the activities could be enhanced by adding some prayer to the Yes Day, for example, a gratitude time to thank God for the blessings God has bestowed on the family.
Thanks to Catholic News Service, for permission to adapt and post this review.