Friday, November 17, 2017

A Bad Moms Christmas

A BAD MOMS CHRISTMAS (Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, 2017)

Even those families with relatively low levels of dysfunction can find the holidays to be stressful and chaotic. For the three female heads of households in A BAD MOMS CHRISTMAS, the festive time of year ramps up the burdens they feel. Amy (Mila Kunis), Kiki (Kristen Bell), and Carla (Kathryn Hahn) vow to take Christmas back this season, but the pledge faces a tough challenge when each of their mothers turn up on their doorsteps unexpectedly or unexpectedly early.

Amy desires a low-key Christmas with her kids and boyfriend’s family, but that plan disintegrates when her demanding mother Ruth (Christine Baranski) and agreeable father Hank (Peter Gallagher) show up with a punishing number of activities and expectations in the week’s lead-up to the big day. Before Kiki is ready, her clingy mother Sandy (Cheryl Hines) arrives and disrupts the home with her creepy lack of boundaries. Carla’s freewheeling mother Isis (Susan Sarandon) usually only turns up when she needs money, so Carla is suspicious of what brings her to Chicago after years of not seeing her.

Like BAD MOMS, its Christmas sequel spots and expresses real frustrations that mothers deal with. Much of the perceived success of holiday gatherings does tend to fall on such women, and the pressure and judgment felt from their own mothers, whether well-meaning or not, adds to the burden. While A BAD MOMS CHRISTMAS identifies something emotionally and interpersonally true, the film is anything but a high-striving overachiever in finding humor in the stress. Writer-directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore lazily cobble together a bunch of cliches and rely heavily on music montages to pad out the running time. Much of the comedy is supposed to derive from suburban, middle class women using stereotypically unladylike language, but at this point in pop culture, it’s hardly as subversive or shocking as the filmmakers would have us believe.

The previous film disappointed by giving its three funny stars little to do that was actually funny. A BAD MOMS CHRISTMAS doubles that, giving six actresses with comedic chops cut-rate fodder from which they are tasked to make an extravagant feast. Kunis gets a few funny moments in displaying her character’s humiliation. Bell hits the mark when trying to strike a balance in putting up with her mother and calling her out when necessary. Hahn sometimes connects with Carla’s unfiltered comments. Baranski, Hines, and Sarandon get the occasional good line, but overall the starpower in the film greatly exceeds the dimness of the jokes.

Grade: C-

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