'Yes Day' Review: Certified Cute, But Definitely Not Fresh

In Yes Day, parents Allison (Jennifer Garner) and Carlos (Édgar Ramírez) agree to a 24-hour period in which their kids make the rules; they can’t say no on this one adventure-filled, junk food-infested day of family mayhem. The concept is enough to earn the Netflix film its cute badge, but that’s the only mark of achievement it snags.

The movie manages to create that bubbly feeling in one’s stomach, as a smirk crawls across the face and rests there for the majority of the production. However, the character dynamics and the uninspired reliance on a dated, prototypical image of the suburban family take away from the film’s potential. 

Allison— who was once carefree, free-spirited, and risk-taking — has developed a dictatorial persona among her three children. On the other hand, Carlos is the “bad guy” at work, so he comes home and gets to be the “fun dad.” 

‘Yes Day’ boasts a mom and dad reminiscent of the 1950s 

The youthful abandon that one characterized Allison is replaced with a tightly-wound maternal instinct, while dad is too busy on his cellphone taking work calls in between family conversations. In 2021, this depiction feels not only dated but it bridges on insulting. 

These are not characters; they are caricatures. These are not individuals but rather contemporary stand-ins for yesteryear’s nuclear family. The groundwork for the “yes day” falls squarely into the eye-roll territory, as Allison yearns to shake her uncool image and Carlos learns to become a partner (in every sense of the word).

The film could have benefited from steering away from negative gender stereotypes as the catalyst for its concept. Still, heartwarming moments and relatable domestic squabbles save the film, taking it from failure to merely forgettable.

The movie sails on Jennifer Garner’s likeability 

Allison agrees to a yes day because her kids cannot fathom that she carries a modicum of fun within her. Meanwhile, the opening rom-com-like montage (which brings out the most beloved Garner) shows her and Carlos rock-climbing and skydiving, so the viewers know she’s packing an adrenaline-loving side. Thus, when Allison gets to be fun, goofy, and all-around unpredictably ridiculous, Garner shines. 

Garner is at home as the mother dying to prove to her kids that she can be a blast. She’s perfect as the mom who will throw kool-aid-filled balloons at her children to win a contest. And, when she agrees to roll the windows down for a drive-thru car wash, her combined hesitation and surprise transfer directly to the viewer, making the film unquestionably adorable. 

While the surrounding cast is strong, their most consequential scenes include Garner; she is responsible for carrying the film’s humor and heart on her shoulders. And, luckily for Yes Day, Garner is effortless as a loving mother. 

The emotional scenes suffice, but they don’t quite pack a strong enough punch 

While Yes Day is a family comedy, it wouldn’t be a family movie without some tears, hugging, and problem-solving. Allison is working on her marriage with Carlos, struggling as her eldest daughter yearns to flee the nest, and is losing sight of her independence as a woman. 

Allison and her eldest daughter (played by Jenna Ortega) receive their mother-daughter moments, and Allison and Carlos argue their way to understanding, yet such scenes feel all-too-predictable. They feel as if they could have (almost without adjustment) transferred to any household — any mother-daughter duo, any husband and wife. They work because Garner is so lovable that it’s impossible to keep the heart closed off from her; however, on a creative level, they are weak. 

The film relies too heavily on pre-existing depictions of such relationships that it fails to walk its own path; instead, following the dated footsteps of family-comedy predecessors. The film will conjure smiles and it may be able to draw a tear or two out, but, by tomorrow, it will be just another PG comedy.

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