Film review: “A Bad Moms Christmas” (2017)

“A Bad Moms Christmas” (2017)



Running Time: 104 minutes

Written & directed by:  Jon Lucas and Scott Moore

Featuring:  Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn,  Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines and Susan Sarandon, Jay Hernandez , Justin Hartley and Peter Gallagher

Kiki: “I spend months picking out the perfect present for everyone. You know the only thing I get in return? Coupons, free back rubs.”

Amy: “That’s not okay.”

Kiki: “Shitty back rubs.”

I am not sure I really cared if there was ever going to be a sequel to the surprise hit from last year “Bad Moms” (2016), that on a meager budget of US$20 million grossed over US$190 million worldwide, which was a fantastic result for independent STX production as well as female led films – so it is really no surprise that it was decided to double down, with the aim of repeating the success of that first film – what studio would not want to try for a franchise, especially based around female characters, attempting to say something about empowerment of a sort. Of course that first movie leveraged off the natural talent and likeability of stars Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn as well as the movies antagonists in the shape of Christina Applegate, Jada Pinkett Smith and Annie Mumolo. This time around the previous cast has been slimmed down, only the ‘bad’ Moms have returned, the antagonists (of a sort) are their mothers, played by Cheryl Hines, Christine Baranski and Oscar winner Susan Sarandon, who in their own disparate ways attempt to make their time memorable.

What is interesting about this sequel is that it was rushed into production, arriving just over a year after the release of the first movie. Not only that it has been written and directed by the same team of Jon Lucas and Scott Moore who are from the Todd Phillips stable of creatives, in case you are wondering, that is the guy who directed the now classic (tongue firmly in cheek) “Hangover Trilogy” (2009 – 2013). Like the first movie “A Bad Moms Christmas” (2017) seems to be attempting to make a statement about mothers as well as the stresses that come with that, but actually misses out on saying anything of real substance, that may be because too much attention is given to getting laughs, as well as concentrating on shock comedy, how many ‘fucks’ any one character can say per minute of screen time – in case you are wondering if that was the bar of success they surpass it with ease.

The movie revolves around under-appreciated and overburdened moms Amy (Mila Kunis), Kiki (Kristen Bell) and Carla (Kathryn Hahn) rebel against the challenges and expectations of the Super Bowl for Moms: Christmas. As if creating the perfect holiday for their families isn’t hard enough, they’ll have to do it while hosting and entertaining their own respective mothers (Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines and Susan Sarandon) when they come to visit.

I wouldn’t call this movie a complete gross out comedy because there is really only one scene where this could even be considered gross out, and its not really that gross or offensive – it involves waxing. The fact is that for some reason women swearing as well as saying the word ‘pussy’ repetitively seems to be Jon Lucas and Scott Moore’s, the writer/directors, idea of humor. Of course to me there seems to be something at odds with men writing about a semblance of motherhood that is supposed to be, I assume, insightful – I have news for you just because you had a mother doesn’t mean you know what it is to be a mother or can relate to that individual stress.

The narrative as well as the plot for this movie is deceptively simple, only half heartedly referencing the original movie in an awkward scene in a mall where the moms are drinking beer – this is a poor imitation of the genuinely funny scene in the first movie where the moms all commiserated over alcohol in a bar. The plot is so simple that I could not help but think that when the device of having the elder mothers make an appearance the writers took the rest of the day off, thinking they had discovered something original. Unfortunately this just meant that their device could fit snugly into a three-act structure, which it does, as well as try and say something about mother/daughter relationships, but it turns out to be unimaginative with little consequences for anyone. As with the first movie it seems that all these families have an endless supply of money to call on in a moments notice, thereby making this a movie for the 1% – there is actually a sickening amount of product placement as well as consumerism that speaks to excesses that maybe should have been examined instead of the faux ‘relationship problems’ that these people have. This is also relates to how the children in this movie come across, like spoilt kids that seem eager to blame their parents for their own shortcomings – I don’t think I would have ever treated my mother like they do, if I did my father would have said something about it – unlike the men here who all seem to have their balls chopped off.

There is no denying that the movie is full of at least very good actors as well as people that are portraying characters that were built up from the previous movie – well almost, the elder mothers seem to be playing caricatures, which means that the writing has been weak or there has been no depth given to their parts. Even though “A Bad Moms Christmas” is billed as an ensemble, this is Mila Kunis’ movie, with her character being the center around which the other two moms, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn, orbit. In fact Hahn is there to be the ‘rough’ mother, while Bell is some kind of ditzy blonde one – talk about all surface and no depth.

All in all this is not a bad comedy, at least compared to the awful comedies that have been produced this year by major studios. To be fair this could have been at least as good as “Bad Moms” but I think the rush into production to meet a deadline had meant aspects of the movie are weak, which is a shame as I think these actresses deserve better. In saying that there are laughs to be had throughout the movie, but the plot is a little non-existent.

“A Bad Moms Christmas” (2017) is out now only in cinemas.

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