Film Review – A Bad Moms Christmas
A Bad Moms Christmas
Throughout Bad Moms (2017) and now with A Bad Moms Christmas (2017), I keep wondering to myself: what exactly is so bad about these moms? Amy (Mila Kunis), Kiki (Kristen Bell), and Carla (Kathryn Hahn) are all determined, strong mothers who bend over backwards so that their loved ones can have the best that life could offer. So far, this series has advertised these characters doing bad things and getting into trouble, but in reality they’re about as great as you can get as parents. Sure, we have montages where they drink and party, but who hasn’t done that? Even Carla – who’s apparently the most extreme with her crude language and behavior – clearly loves her son.
If anything, these films should be charged with false advertising – promising something naughty when in actuality it’s anything but. Oh sure, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (co-writers/directors) earn the film’s R rating with plenty of sexual jokes and kids spouting bad words, but when we dig deeper we can see the mushy heart beating underneath the façade, like a warm Christmas pie. In fact, the real “Bad Moms” of this sequel are the mothers to our protagonists. Ruth (Christine Baranski) expects perfection from Amy, from setting decorations to hosting Christmas parties. Sandy (Cheryl Hines) smothers Kiki to the point of asphyxiation, even considering moving in next door to be closer to her. And Isis (Susan Sarandon) is the raunchy mother we thought Carla was going to be. When she isn’t absent from Carla’s life, she hangs around hoping to skim some extra dough.
And that’s the basic set up to our story: seeing Amy, Kiki, and Carla try to pull together a memorable holiday for their families while juggling the landslides that are their mothers. I’ll admit to you, dear reader, that Bad Moms and A Bad Moms Christmas probably did not have me in mind for their target audience. That’s not to say that they shouldn’t exist, because they should. These films are a response to the male-centered, R-rated comedies like The Hangover franchise. But where Girls Trip (2017) did it successfully, Bad Moms sadly does not.
The biggest problem is that the material is just not that funny. The gimmick of these women being bad wears off really quickly – it can be argued that it was played out in the previous entry. What’s left are scenarios that go nowhere and comedic bits that barely induce a laugh. This is an instance where the plot structure acts as a thin string, stitching together scenes that have little to no relation to one another. In one scene we see Amy hustling around trying to cook dinner for her family, and then in the next Ruth forces her to participate in a lame Christmas caroling group with a bunch of strangers. Carla explains how she’s worried that Isis came back into her life just to steal money, and yet she stands with her in front of a grocery store, stealing food from customers under the guise of a charity. The three stories veer off in random directions with no semblance of coherency.
It’s as though the narrative is not confident about what tone it wants to go for. When Amy interacts with her family, Mitchell Amundsen’s cinematography has a hazy golden hue that’s meant to make us feel warm and fuzzy. And yet this is juxtaposed with a scene where the women watch a line of strippers (dressed in Santa outfits) strut their stuff on top of a bar. Neither of these two elements are wrong on their own but when combined together they leave us wondering what the purpose was.
I’m being a bit facetious with that last sentence. We know what the goal is, and it’s for entertainment. I suppose if we use a very low bar, there are some pieces that work. This mostly has to do with the cast. Kunis, Bell, and Hahn all share strong chemistry together, and that alone may be enough to bring people to the theater. But the writing and direction doesn’t allow them to really showcase their connection. It’s telling that the funniest bit we get is a Meet Cute between Carla and hunky firefighter/stripper Ty (Justin Hartley), in which she provides a complete waxing of his unmentionables. Of course, the highlight of is the suggestion that he’s packing a lot more down under than your usual hunky firefighter/stripper. This gag goes for the very bottom of denominators, lacking in wit or creativity with its comedy.
But who am I to say what’s funny or entertaining? While A Bad Moms Christmas did not work for me in the slightest, I’m sure some will find something to take away. This is the kind of flick people make dates together to go see, and that’s great. I just wish the final product had more to offer. This is the equivalent of rushing downstairs on Christmas morning, ripping your present open, and discovering all you got was a measly pair of socks.