In hindsight, perhaps a single guy going to watch A Bad Mom’s Christmas was going to raise some eyebrows. Apart from the obligatory couples in the dim back corners, the theater showing the just released film had an all-woman audience, something which was noted quite frequently as the ladies passed your reviewer on the way to their seats, with “What’s a guy doing here?” being the most common (loudly) wondered query.
In any case, the sequel to the surprise 2016 hit Bad Moms, has Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn reprise their roles are overworked moms Amy, Kiki and Carla respectively. The standard formula of family comedy sequels of adding another generation of the wacky is applied here, with the domineering Ruth (Christine Barinski), overly-dependent Sandy (Cheryl Hines) and flaky Isis (Susan Sarandon) introduced as the mothers of Ruth, Kiki and Carla. This is identical to the formula applied to Daddy’s Home 2 (releasing later this month), wherein the dads’ of the dads’ from Daddy’s Home are introduced. And people say Hollywood overuses plot lines!
Written and directed by the same two guys who worked on The Hangover franchise, Christmas continues the proud tradition of the sequel being a hastily tacked together imitation of the original with the addition of tassels.
Independent, laid-back and recent divorcee Amy is trying the be the best mom she can be to her two kids, while still dating the dreamy Jessie from the first film; Kiki continues to stay at home with her unruly, hyperactive brood while husband is the typical man who works; Carla is single, always down to mingle and a caring if somewhat eccentric mother to her teenaged son.
Its Christmas time and that means all three moms’ are drowning in chores, shopping for gifts and decorating their homes. To add to the chaos, their mothers are coming to visit for the holidays with each older mom posing her own particular challenge. Privileged Ruth is a demanding perfectionist who undermines Amy at every turn, Sandy is way too attached to Kiki (“My daughter is and always has been my best friend”) and that drug-addled flower child Isis didn’t even know it was Christmas when she stumbled out of a truck at Carla’s front door.
Tiring of the expectations of their families, the stress of the holidays and their own mothers, Amy, Kiki and Carla decide to “Take back Christmas”. This, of course, involves montages of drunken misbehavior (including a significant amount of larceny that strangely goes unpunished) mother-daughter showdowns and all the misunderstandings and ego clashes that mark family celebrations – including a ridiculously stretched-out bit of product placement that sees all three families enjoying some quality time (and a new understanding of each other) at a branded indoor trampoline park.
Hahn shines among the younger moms’, gleefully comfortable in the skin of the sexually-charged and extremely earthy Carla, a spa worker who’s heartily sick of waxing her customers’ most intimate regions. Kunis as Amy serves as the film’s de facto focus (and narrator) gets a little lost in the large ensemble cast but still gives it her all with her trademark infectiousness, while Bell’s Kiki restrains herself admirably in the presence of more colorful characters, often providing a modicum of normalcy to the various outlandishness that bursts on to the screen.
But the two stand-outs of the film are Ruth and Sandy. Barinski dominates every scene she’s in, whether she’s handing out endless expensive gifts to her grandchildren or treating Jessie as domestic Latin help and of course, destroying her daughter’s feelings of self-worth with devastating one-liners. In her shadow dwells her husband Hank (played with bemusement by Peter Gallagher) who speaks when spoken to, irons his wife’s pajamas before bed, and readies her toothbrush, among other menial chores.
Sandy is the perfect foil to Ruth’s ‘upper class’ superiority and force of personality; she’s quiet, polite (Canadian, of course), conventional and worryingly attached to her daughter, Kiki. From watching Kiki go to sleep (or engage in coitus with her husband) every night to having pajamas covered with cut-outs of her daughter’s face to buying the house next door to her, Sandy is a couple of steps short of Norman Bates-like attachment.
As for Isis (“Like the terrorist organization”, as Sarandon helpfully mentions), well, she doesn’t have much of a role apart from being a terrible, absentee mother. Sarandon doesn’t really seem to be knowing what she’s doing in the film but gamely gives a shot at playing a nomadic hippie with serious lack of self-control whether it comes to substances, gambling or sex.
Essentially, this is another one of those responsible adults-gone-wild comedies that serve as filler in the lean season. It has its moments (in full disclosure, the audience of mostly moms cackled at every bawdy punchline), but otherwise, profanity, adult humor and gags that are occasionally funny, and clumsy emotional parries pretty much sum up A Bad Mom’s Christmas. You can watch it, or leave it. Unlike Christmas, it doesn’t really matter.
Rating – 2/5