Director Miguel Arteta reaches for his Netflix comedy YES DAY He uses extraordinary parenting methods by deleting the word “no” from the vocabulary of a couple of parents for 24 hours. Following in the footsteps of the comedy “The Coopers,” which he also directed, entertaining chaos ensues. We reveal more about this in our review.
Yes Day (USA 2021)
Allison (Jennifer Garner) and Carlos Torres (Edgar Ramírez) have long had the feeling that they only ever say “no” to their children and colleagues. When they then realize that they can hardly get through to their three offspring, they decide to give them a “Yes Day”. A newfangled parenting method that they find out about by chance and which supposedly results in a much more relaxed relationship. According to the rules of a “Yes Day”, the children are allowed to decide about everyday life for 24 hours. Your parents suddenly have to say “yes” to (almost) everything, the “no” disappears from the vocabulary for the time being. Little do the two know that this will lead to an incredible adventure around Los Angeles that will bring the family closer together than ever.
Anyone who googles the family comedy “Yes Day”, which has been available on the streaming platform Netflix since mid-March, will not only find a lot of information about the production itself, but also increasingly parents’ inquiries in forums and on parenting platforms as to whether such a Yes Day actually exists – or whether the educational effectiveness suggested in the film is just the imagination of the screenwriter Justin Malen (“Dirty Office Party”) or whether there is actually something to the idea of the 24 hours in which parents have to say “yes” to all of their children’s wishes. The answer to the question lies in the middle. In fact, the script for “Yes Day” is based on the picture book of the same name by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, who wrote a 40-page story in 2009 about the idea of a Yes Day. The book has now inspired numerous families, especially in the USA, to celebrate such a Yes Day once a year. However, there are no studies (yet) about the extent to which such a day has educational added value. However, the popularity of Yes Day is likely to become increasingly widespread in the coming years thanks to the Netflix film adaptation of the same name. And who knows – maybe the next generation will really grow up with the tradition that their parents have to say “yes and amen” to (almost) all of their kids’ concerns once a year!?
Allison (Jennifer Garner) and Carlos Torres (Edgar Ramírez) at their eldest Nando’s parent-teacher conference.
The way in which the idea for a “Yes Day” in the film is born out of pure (if greatly exaggerated) parental desperation is reminiscent of the premise of the 2011 Farrelly comedy “Everything Goes – A Week Without Rules”. In it, Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis, in their roles as Rick and Fred, receive a one-week license from their wives and are allowed to do whatever they want during these seven days – in the hope that all four will then be released from the marital and everyday grind benefit. In “Yes Day” things are not quite as drastic, but here too the dominant goal is that this 24-hour break for the parents, as permanent nay-sayers and fun-stoppers, should bring a breath of fresh air into the Torres family’s everyday family life – and that each of them understands even more what he or she has in each other. The children to the parents, as well as the other way around. This undoubtedly charming idea, which also has a lot of potential for anarchic humor, is directed by Miguel Arteta (“Lady Business”) however, not fully exploited. This starts with the drawing of his protagonists. The problems of the family, which is actually extremely harmonious at its core, are limited to superficialities (the fact that the pubescent daughter is not allowed to go to a music festival with her best friend is the height of the intra-family strife). It goes without saying that “Yes Day” is less about the educational aim and more about the fun of the (largely controlled) escalation.
“The problems of the family, which is actually extremely harmonious at its core, are limited to superficialities. It goes without saying that “Yes Day” is less about the educational aim and more about the fun of the (largely controlled) escalation.”
Given the target group addressed here, that’s not a problem at all – Miguel Arteta has already proven himself in harmless, family-friendly comedies with “The Coopers – Worse Can Be Worse”. But over time, the Yes Day of the title fades further and further into the background. At the beginning, the parents’ sudden laissez-faire attitude opens up unimagined possibilities for the kids; Ice cream for breakfast? This hasn’t happened with the Torres’ before. With such small, harmless requests from the children – such as when the youngest wanted to put colorful make-up on her mother – the focus is clearly on having fun testing their limits. The kids’ rather peace-loving attitude and their good nursery ensure that the consequences of this are not too extreme. But it also shows the parents in a gentle way that their almost dogmatic “no” here and there may actually be a bit too strict and that now and then they should just let their children be children. In addition, the predetermined rules of Yes Day clearly play into the hands of the parents: decisions affecting the future, for example, remain unaffected by Yes Day. And so the children are neither allowed to demand a dog as a new pet, nor is the eldest finally allowed to go to the music festival without her mother. These limits, which were set to the ultimate escalation from the start, noticeably inhibit “Yes Day”. Because even if the film is ultimately still intended to be harmless family fun: knowing that the catastrophe – whatever it may look like – can’t happen anyway, it’s only half as much fun to watch the Torres family’s escapades to watch.
The Torres family has their first Yes Day coming up.
Meanwhile, the highly committed Jennifer Garner is there (“Peppermint – Angel of Vengeance”) and her film husband Edgar Ramírez (“The Last Days of American Crime”) everything to bring the much-needed spice to the story with their infectious joy of playing. And you can’t even imagine what a joy it would have been for everyone involved to have been able to go even further than they did in “Yes Day”. The escalation that was conjured up from the start (and ultimately never fully realized) results – if at all – from the sometimes rather contrived processes. There’s something a bit “tick-off” about how the script maneuvers the Torres family from one unhinged event to the next. Sometimes we go through the car wash with the windows open, then parents and kids indulge in a mixture of “Capture the Flag”, paintball and a lemonade fight and at the very end the whole family goes to an amusement park. The references to Yes Day become more and more rudimentary over time. And when, as is typical of the genre, it becomes emphatically sentimental towards the end, because every family member suddenly recognizes the value of their own family, “Yes Day” even completely loses steam at times. “The Coopers – Worse Can Always Go Wrong,” which has a very similar “everything goes wrong that can go wrong” mentality, was much more entertaining given the significantly shorter running time and the lack of sentimentality.
“It’s a bit of a ‘tick-off’ thing as the script maneuvers the Torres family from one unhinged situation to the next. Sometimes we go through the car wash with the windows open, then parents and kids indulge in a mixture of “Capture the Flag”, paintball and a lemonade fight and at the very end the whole family goes to an amusement park.”
The fact that “Yes Day” always maneuvers itself out of irrelevance in a likeable way is due to the film’s basic ingredients. Although in a rather schematic way, Miguel Arteta manages to authentically highlight the Torres’ family cohesion and their passion for parenthood. The fact that everything goes a little too smoothly in “Yes Day” in the end, that the problems are solved a little too easily and that everyone is happy in each other’s arms again in the finale is hardly surprising, considering how it seems The Torres family is drawn in a fundamentally harmonious way from the beginning, but at least not artificially. Although it is of course very questionable how many such picture book families there actually are…
Conclusion: “Yes Day” is a likeable but only partially exciting comedy for all ages, but it doesn’t get much out of the idea of giving children responsibility for everyday family life for 24 hours.
“Yes Day” is now available to stream on Netflix.