Review: Harmless 'Yes Day' better in concept than in execution

Yes is the word in Netflix movie that puts kids in charge

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

A fun concept gets covered in suds in "Yes Day," a children's fantasy about a day where parents have to say "yes" to everything, which allows kids to make their wildest Nickelodeon-adjacent dreams come true. 

Go through the car wash with the windows down? Parents have to say yes. Eat the biggest sundae at the local ice cream shop? Parents have to say yes. It's a role reversal escapist free-for-all, and it makes for harmless but empty family fare. 

Edgar Ramírez, Jenna Ortega, Everly Carganilla and Jennifer Garner in "Yes Day."

Allison (Jennifer Garner) and Carlos (Édgar Ramírez) used to be adventuresome types, but parenthood has found them in overprotective mode with their three kids, teenager Katie (Jenna Ortega), tween Nando (Julian Lerner) and youngster Ellie (Everly Carganilla). Tired of saying "no" to their every request and whim, they give them a day where they must say "yes" to every request, no matter how ridiculous. 

There are ground rules, of course: they can't ask for anything dangerous or illegal, they can't ask for anything in the future (no pets!), and they're not genies, so they can't grant them, say, a million dollars. But a water balloon fight in the park? That's fair game, as is a superhero-style makeover for Mom & Dad.

"Yes Day" is based on the children's book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld, and director Miguel Arteta ("Cedar Rapids," "Like a Boss") treats it with the high color and low stakes of an ABC Family original. There's no real conflict in the movie, unless a house filled with foam and bubbles counts as conflict, so it becomes a rather routine exercise in zaniness, exaggerated by scenes of animal panic and groin mishaps and somehow, trips to both the emergency room and the cop shop. 

But perhaps there's an afterlife for "Yes Day." The concept of giving kids their say for a day is a good one, and the film promotes the togetherness it could potentially create in families. That idea has legs beyond what's on screen here; "The Bucket List" was once just a movie, too. 

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

'Yes Day'

GRADE: C

Rated PG: for some rude and suggestive material, and brief language

Running time: 89 minutes

On Netflix