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"A BAD MOMS CHRISTMAS"
(2017) (Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: Three moms vow to take back Christmas and make it a low-key and stress-free holiday, but must contend with the arrival of their respective mothers and all of the related mother-daughter baggage that brings along for the holiday.
PLOT:
Having commiserated and bonded over the daily stresses of being moms, Amy (MILA KUNIS), Kiki (KRISTEN BELL) and Carla (KATHRYN HAHN) are now fast friends. But with Christmas quickly approaching, Amy hates the thought of all of the related stress of making things perfect and decides she, her kids Dylan (EMJAY ANTHONY) and Jane (OONA LAURENCE), boyfriend Jessie (JAY HERNANDEZ) and his daughter, Lori (ARIANA GREENBLATT), are going to have a low-key, stress free holiday.

Kiki and Carla agree to this "take back Christmas" strategy, but before any of them can commit to pulling that off, all of their mothers show up. For Amy, that also means getting to see her dad, Hank (PETER GALLAGHER), but she dreads having to contend with her highly critical, perfectionist mother, Ruth (CHRISTINE BARANSKI), who's already decided to force her view of what a Christmas get-together with the family should be like, regardless of that being against Amy's direct wishes.

For Kiki, she must deal with her uber-clingy mom, Sandy (CHERYL HINES), who wants nothing more than to be with her daughter at all moments, including secretly being in the bedroom during her daughter's love-making and buying the house next door. And for Carla who works at a salon and has just fallen for fireman Ty (JUSTIN HARTLEY) who moonlights as a male stripper, she must contend with her inattentive, long-absent mom, Isis (SUSAN SARANDON), who usually only shows up when she needs money to pay off her gambling debts.

With Christmas fast approaching, the three women must contend with their mothers thwarting their laid-back Christmas plan, all while dealing with their various mother-daughter issues.

OUR TAKE: 3.5 out of 10
Back when I was growing up in the 1960s and '70s, a notable ad campaign for a certain tobacco product aimed at women had as its slogan, "You've come a long way, baby." While it was designed to tap into the women's feminist movements of the time, it still had a sexist and pandering tone to it (probably because it was conceived and designed by men), and was promoting a product designed to addict and likely kill those who purchased it.

Nonetheless, women have come a long way (but have not gotten fully there in all regards) towards equality with men. Yet, and I realize this is a generalization that certainly will not be true across all households, women still do the majority of the work around the house. Whether that's taking care of the kids, cooking meals, doing the laundry, or general cleaning duties, they're still doing that far more often than the men. And when it comes to the holidays, be that cooking or buying gifts, that gender discrepancy is only exacerbated.

For the three central figures in "A Bad Mom's Christmas" (played by Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn) -- the sequel to the decently profitable "Bad Moms" comedy from 2016 -- they've had enough of all of those duties and related stress and decide they're going to take back Christmas for themselves. As in the first film, that celebrated by a montage sequence of watching them drink heavily, but before they can pat themselves on the back to the point of possible chafing, another sort of annoyance shows up that could very well derail their plans.

Coincidentally or not, this plot twist -- written and directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore -- is strikingly similar to something that we've yet to see (it hasn't been screened for critics yet), but is fully promoted in the movie trailers for "Daddy's Home 2." And that's the appearance of same-gender parental units. Whereas Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell must contend with the Christmas time appearance of their characters' fathers played by Mel Gibson and John Lithgow, the ladies here are startled when their mothers show up.

For Kunis' character, that means her uber-wealthy and perfectionist mom played by Christine Baranski. Bell's character is surprised by her clingy mom played by Cheryl Hines showing up, and Hahn (not exactly the most attentive mother herself) is surprised to see her similarly inattentive and often long-missing mother arrive, played by Susan Sarandon. Let the familial hijinks begin, as accompanied by more montages than most any film should contain.

When that happens, it's usually a sign that the filmmakers realize there isn't enough regular scripted material to carry the film from start to finish, and that certainly seems to be the case here. Yes, it contains the same sort of sitcom-style material and ribald humor that was found in the first film, and thus fans of that earlier offering will probably also find this one to their liking. And that could include all of the various montages showing the ladies and all of their related hijinks.

I found the original film amusing and entertaining enough, and I realized any sequel was going to possess much of the same sort of material. But most everything here feels repetitive, tired, and often uninspired despite the frenetic qualities at play. And no one will be surprised that it follows the same formula of showing the women initially being irritated, deciding to cut loose, and then concluding with some less antic, heartfelt moments where everyone makes nice.

I think the big issue is that the script was written by two men rather than one or more women and thus much of the humor feels off and sometimes cringe-worthy in portraying the female characters as male-imagined stereotypes rather than something resembling realism.

Yes, I realize that criticism may seem tone deaf considering this is a broadly-played, over-the-top comedy that's meant to be goofy and designed to wallow in its R-rated raunchiness, but a little (or a lot) more estrogen in the scriptwriting process would have done the offering some (or a lot of) good. "A Bad Mom's Christmas" rates as just a 3.5 out of 10.




Reviewed October 30, 2017 / Posted November 1,2017


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