I do not think it was on purpose, so I do not think it deserves credit, but Yes Day absolutely nails the horrible feeling of being trapped with proud parents who are unreasonably confident that everybody around them must surely love their terrible, terrible children. It is an exhausting, loud sugar rush of a movie. And of course what's really going on here is simply that this is a children's comedy, and as such is forced to take one of the only two forms available to modern children's comedies: sedate, droning and so acutely "nice" that it ends up feeling sleepy and pandering, or loud and shrilly goofy, confident that as long as it keeps mugging and making big exaggerated faces and chortling heartily at its own jokes, like some kind of unspeakable nightmare clown, the target audience will be enraptured by the sheer endless jolliness that matches their own pixie-stick addled mania.

Yes Day, of course, takes the latter route, taking a very straightforward concept with barely any need for a story to drive it, and using that as a scaffolding upon which to hang one wacky comic setpiece after another, the gaudier and busier the better. There is very little sense of escalation between these, and absolutely no rhyme or reason to how they assemble their constituent parts, which is why a full-scale war movie parody in which a combination capture-the-flag/water balloon fight has been staffed by sexy young people who think they're auditioning for a reality TV show, and this is then shortly followed by a scene of people riding a roller coaster and screaming. It's all just stuff, feeling not so much like it has been assembled by an algorithm, as that the algorithm has broken in some horrible way and is just spitting out nouns.

The idea behind the film, basically, is that Allison (Jennifer Garner) and Carlos (Édgar Ramírez) are good parents who set appropriate boundaries for their children, and this is something they're right to feel horribly guilty about. More specifically, Allison is horribly consumed by the feeling that she's not "fun" like she used to be, and that her three children, especially 14-year-old Katie (Jenna Ortega) resent her for it. And  this fear makes her susceptible to the suggestions of Deacon (Nat Faxon), who works at the younger kids' middle school in some indistinct capacity and gives off an increasingly alarming "sex offender" vibe as the film goes on, that the family should consider holding a "Yes Day", in which the parents cannot say "no" to any request made by their children, within certain reasonable restrictions (i.e. "don't break any laws", and even this seems to be too much for them, based on what we see throughout the movie). Allison and Carlos immediately turn over their entire lives to their children, whose plan involves a massive cross-city series of adventures, rather than the "ice cream for lunch, video games instead of homework" shenanigans that I would expect an actual set of children to come up with, but perhaps I was just a lazy and unimaginative ten-year-old. Much of what we get feels actively antisocial, like the kids are really just looking for ways to destroy things and make their parents suffer.

The point of the thing, anyway, is the wackiness that befalls the family. To the film's credit, it has one single goal and it pursues it: broad goofy shit for kids. There are no snarky, cynical layers to the film, nor any hidden pockets of adult innuendo (not even an orgasm joke during the opening montage of seeing younger, child-free Allison shouting "yes! yes! yes!" all time), just adults doing silly bullshit and kids doing it alongside them. Run of the mill wish-fulfillment stuff, in other words, and it's basically sound. Although I think there would always be the point where Justin Malen's script (adapting a children's book by Amy Krause Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld) ran into the insoluble problem that the film both wants to suggest that Yes Day is a big lark that every family should try, and to also suggest that Allison is right to put firm, unyielding rules up for her impetuous teen daughter to obey, which leads to some pretty weird tonal imbalances in the last quarter of the blessedly short (86 minutes) film, where it feels both playful and crudely moralistic at the same time.

Still: the concept isn't really broken. It would need a deft hand to avoid transforming into the exact squawking mess of overstimulated nonsense we get, with its inexplicable grab bag of song cues (American Authors' "Best Day of My Life", here in a 2021 movie? Sure, that makes a great deal of sense, especially for a film whose target audience was in the womb when that song came out) and its inexhaustible willingness to go for big slapstick shtick whenever possible. Garner mostly survives this - because her character is the stick-in-the-mud authoritarian forcing herself to have fun through gritted teeth, there are more chances to underplay, and even her BIG moments feel like the film builds up to them fairly well - but Ramírez is mortifying, diving without any shred of self-doubt into the loopy clowning around that the film demands of him, only buffoonish fun doesn't seem to come easy to him at all, so most of his big comic scenes are mostly just him being loud and higher-pitched than usual.

Director Miguel Arteta handles this all like a train conductor, mostly striving to make sure that all the dumb hijinx are framed correctly to make it easy to see what's going on and follow the action - that's actually a point in Yes Day's favor, it's unusually cleanly edited for a modern American comedy - and doing evidently very little to modulate tone. The film has two modes: brassy bigness, and Garner looking nervous and downbeat in the "character" moments, and of course the second mode only applies to one of the five main characters, so it's really not much of a mode at all. That basically just leaves a whole lot of heavy zaniness, with every gag laboriously underlined and carved out of the movie through cutting, such that the entire film feels like a flop-sweating vaudevillian relying on rim shots to sell all of his punchlines. I am, of course, not the target audience, and for all I know, the Kids These Days eat this kind of thing up. If so, more's the pity for the kids.

Check out Rob and Carrie's interview with Miguel Arteta, to which I was not invited for some reason