Depending on their life circumstances, many people get to enjoy a wonderful, blissful decade or so of unrestrained adulthood, where they can simply say “yes” to all manner of new experiences and youthful adventures. Yes Day, a new Netflix comedy directed by Miguel Arteta from a screenplay by Justin Malen, explores this honeymoon of life for a few minutes before allowing it to come crashing down with the realities of parenthood. Suddenly, the word “no” becomes a dominant wall of childhood preservation, and these once fun-loving adults have to focus more on what can’t be done instead of what can.
The film stars Jennifer Garner and Édgar Ramírez as Allison and Carlos Torres, the spirited parents of three precocious kids: the eldest teen (Jenna Ortega), the nerdy middle child (Julian Lerner), and the fun-loving youngest (Everly Carganilla). Allison and Carlos recognize that their children feel perpetually trapped in their own home by so many rules and restrictions, so the school guidance counselor (Nat Faxon) proposes they try out a “Yes Day,” where the parents must go an entire 24 hours saying “yes” to just about everything their kids ask them to do, with some obvious ground rules, of course.
But there’s more to this “Yes Day” than a chance for the kids to blow off some steam and get it all out of their system like some Nickelodeon movie remake of The Purge. Allison feels frustrated by Carlos’s more relaxed parenting style, which results in her feeling like the buzzkill of the family. And Carlos has his own hangups with the stresses of work. This “Yes Day” is their chance to see how they can become better parents, but also the kids’ chance to understand why adults have to say “no” sometimes. Additionally, on top of the “Yes Day” is a wager proposed by Katie, the oldest child, who believes her mother can’t possibly go an entire day without saying “no” to something. Thus the stakes are raised for Allison to live up to the free-spirited, high-energy approach to life she once relished but now with a chance to bring the whole family along for some lighthearted amusement.
Yes Day is a sickeningly sweet hour and 26 minutes of pure, unadulterated fun, made all the more infectious by how much of a good time the entire cast is having in these roles. The kids come up with all kinds of implausible, plot-busting scenarios to put their parents through, but the movie wisely avoids shenanigans that come at the parents’ expense. They might be a little irked or nervous at first, but you can tell the parents are willing to make the most of this day, and the kids are happy to see their parents react so positively to their ideas. You always believe that everyone in this family wants the best for each other, even though they have plenty to fight and whine over, which is what being in a family is all about, no?
The film also has a dose of personality when it comes to its biracial component. The children are half Latinx, so Spanish is commonly spoken by everyone in the family at times. It doesn’t affect the plot in any way, but it’s just nice to see an accessible studio comedy of this nature recognize the existence of these types of families without performatively dwelling on its own representation. Especially for a mainstream, glossed up production that a lot of people will see on Netflix this weekend and the weekends to come.
Additionally, Yes Day boasts an energetic secondary cast of comedians, including Fortune Feimster as a delightfully deranged paramedic and Arturo Castro as a lonely police officer who stretches a bit of a role into something far more heartfelt than expected. The film operates on a flimsy Disney Channel Original Movie logic that barely strikes a believable balance, but the actors fit into this squeaky, sanitized world quite effortlessly. Much of the slapstick and goofy humor will certainly cause some groans, and it’s certainly not difficult to overstuff yourself on the sweets of this meal. But when enjoyed with the whole family, Yes Day is a harmless and often humorous escape from the metaphorical barriers of real life.
Yes Day is streaming on Netflix.