A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
"A Little Help" is about a woman who is very far from perfect, and that's why it's appealing. Laura limps through her days using Budweisers as a crutch. She never gets falling-over drunk, just buzzed enough to screw up when things go wrong, which they do relentlessly. I like her. I've had days like hers. Every once in a while, I appreciate a change of pace from mothers who are brave heroines.
Laura is a New Jersey dental hygienist, played by Jenna Fischer ("The Office") in such a way that although the plot is loaded against her, she's so real she wins our sympathy. She's not a bad person. Life piles up on her. She has a husband (Chris O'Donnell) who cheats, a son (Daniel Yelsky) who is a lying little brat, a mother (Lesley Ann Warren) who has been criticizing her from birth, a father (Ron Leibman) who won't shut up about his greatness as a sports writer, and a sister (Brooke Smith) who isn't as pretty but is oh, so much better organized.
There are two men in her family she can stand: Her brother-in-law (Rob Benedict), and her nephew (Zach Page), whose garage band may be an excuse to get out of the house.
These people almost seem to coordinate their picking on Laura. Someone is always on her case. The screenplay by Michael J. Weithorn, who also directed, is ingenious in setting the stage for one calamity after another — one which should remain a surprise, and the others all developing inexorably out of Laura's tendency to fib her way out of a corner. This is a talent shared by her son, who to fit in at his new school, shares that his father was a fireman who died while saving people on 9/11. Since the movie is set only a year after that tragedy, the kid is rewarded with instant popularity; Laura keeps quiet about his lie and actually participates in a patriotic memorial service at the school.