Released: 12th March
Seen: 6th May
Films, in general, are full of tropes. Some hide them better than others but every film has them. The trick is to either hide them well enough behind interesting characters and dialogue that no one cares or to find ways to subvert them or put them together in new and interesting ways. Then there’s the films that don’t even bother to try and hide their tropes and just hope you’re stupid enough to enjoy them. Yes Day is kind of the queen of trope films for 2021 and unfortunately for it, I’m not as stupid as I look.
Yes Day features very basic parents, Allison Torres (Jennifer Garner) and Carlos Torres (Edgar Ramirez). They have very normal relationships with their kids, they don’t let them do stupid things and say no to things that all good parents would say no to… this of course gets them literally compared to Hitler and Stalin so the two of them decide to try and give their kids something known as a Yes Day.
A Yes Day, in this context, means that anything that the kids ask for the parents have to say yes to (within reasons, the kids can’t ask to murder someone even though that would actually make for a more interesting film) which of course ends in a bunch of assorted games that involve mess, foam, water balloon fights and eventually an important lesson about responsibility that will be learned provided the audience stays awake until the end.
It’s almost funny just seeing how similar Yes Day is to so many other kids films, from the father with an unspecified job in tech that constantly has him on a phone, to the overbearing mother who used to be fun but isn’t because she had kids, to the three annoying kids who are either too old to need their parents (until they absolutely need them), the middle child who is seriously into science (until that interest backfires) and the youngest who is there to say cute things and adds nothing to the story other than existing. If you’ve seen enough of these (I’d say 3 family films will do the job) you can easily call every conflict and joke about 10 minutes before it happens.
There’s just no actual substance here, Yes Day inoffensively blends in with everything surrounding it. That kind of makes sense considering the director is mostly known for his work in TV, that thing that doesn’t encourage directors to show any personality but requires them to basically be indistinguishable from those who directed the episode before and after them. This same director did last year’s big inoffensive comedy Like a Boss which doesn’t shock me, except this time he doesn’t have Billy Porter to liven things up.
That’s not to say the acting is bad, honestly everyone is kind of just fine. Jennifer Garner is certainly trying her best to give Yes Day some energy and Edgar Ramirez is just so damn likeable that it barely matters that he does almost nothing in the film… but there’s no standout performances, no lines made better because of the delivery. If you had this same script delivered by a set of monotone robots there would be no change in how many laughs you would get. The film just kind of keeps happening, hoping you’ll laugh at the concept of characters getting wet or really needing to poop.
The bulk of Yes Day is focussed around this list of things the kids want to do. This list includes eat a very expensive ice cream in under a half hour because then it’s free, go through a carwash with the windows rolled down, a giant water balloon fight crossed with capture the flag, putt putt golf (which is turned into “Go to Six Flags Magic Mountain” for no apparent reason) and throw a giant party. If they fail to do all 5 of these things, the eldest daughter gets to go to a concert on her own and but if all 5 of those are done the eldest daughter STILL gets to go to the concert but with her mom in tow… anyone else catch how boring and bland that is?
None of the things that they are obliged to say yes to are particularly dangerous or funny or interesting. With maybe the exception of the car wash with the windows rolled down all of that just sounds like an above average birthday celebration for a 16 year old, there’s nothing here that’s pushing a boundary of any kind or even that interesting. It kinda feels like this is a super cheap TV movie that built its plot around what company would give them money in exchange for being one of the big 5 activities, which I want to assume it’s not but I also can’t think of a better reason why the Magic Mountain stuff is in there.
Even things that could add actual conflict don’t really matter. There’s a semi-subplot right at the beginning where the dad character has a problem at work that he needs to call in about… never comes up again after the water balloon fight sequence. There’s a point where they seem to leave their car at one of the locations, this is also never a serious issue because for some reason several emergency vehicle operators have time to give this family a ride anywhere they need to go. Any conflict is just kind of dropped or pushed aside so we can get to the next allegedly interesting thing that needs to be done on this day.
Yes Day is a film that isn’t bad, but it lacks anything good. It’s perfect neutral, a glass of water and a slice of unbuttered bread that somehow got turned into a film. It will technically sustain you but it won’t excite you and you could do much better. It’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s just nice… and nice is me being very charitable because I wasn’t being actively annoyed.