[Screen It]


(2014) (Sarah Drew, Patricia Heaton) (PG)

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Comedy: A harried mom plans a girls' night out with two of her fellow moms, unaware of how that outing is actually going to turn out.
Stay-at-home mom Allyson (SARAH DREW) and her architect husband Sean (SEAN ASTIN) have three young kids and a nice house. It's everything Allyson ever dreamed of, but she's unhappy. A clean freak, the constant messes overwhelm her, as do all of the other demands that come from being a parent.

As a result, she doesn't think she's a good mother, especially when compared to Sondra (PATRICIA HEATON), the wife of Pastor Ray (ALEX KENDRICK). What Allyson doesn't know is that they have their hands full with teenage daughter Zoe (SAMMI HANRATTY) who's somewhat trying to push their set boundaries. Allyson's friend, Izzy (ANDREA LOGAN WHITE), also has her hands full with young twins, as well as a husband, Marco (ROBERT AMAYA), who's less than a confident father to them.

Seeing that she's at a breaking point, Sean encourages Allyson to have a girls night out, something she had already sort of planned with Izzy and Sondra. Sean plans on watching the kids with his single and childless friend, Kevin (KEVIN DOWNES), with Marco eventually joining them at a kid-friendly amusement center they believe will make their babysitting easier. At the same time, the three women learn that their reservations at a nice restaurant have been bungled, but Allyson is determined not to give up.

That results in an impromptu trip to a nearby bowling alley, with her forgetting that Sean's half-sister, Bridget (ABBIE COBB), is now working there. When Bridget learns from them that her ex, Joey (HARRY SHUM JR.), is at the former restaurant and not babysitting their young child as promised, that sets off an escalating chain of events that ends up involving a British taxi driver, Cabbie (DAVID HUNT); a biker tattoo artist, Bones (TRACE ADKINS); his goofy front desk receptionist (MANWELL REYES); and others the ladies encounter as they try to track down their missing kids as the night continues to go out of control for them.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
Back in 1987, three years before he brought the box office hit "Home Alone" to the big screen, filmmaker Chris Columbus made his directorial debut with the comedy "Adventures in Babysitting." Starring Elisabeth Shue in the lead role, it was the tale of a teenager whose night of what initially appeared would be an otherwise innocuous babysitting experience unexpectedly turned into quite a night out on the town, complete with an escalating series of weird events and encounters with a colorful collection of characters.

It's been twenty-seven years (!) since I saw the flick, but I remember being moderately entertained by the cinematic shenanigans that ensued and ran throughout the PG-13 rated film (reportedly the first among any Disney studio properties -- their old Touchstone Pictures -- to carry that rating). Hoping to capture some of that spirit but in a fairly more chaste and older leaning offering, co-director/co-writer Jon Erwin, his brother co-director Andrew Erwin, and co-writer Andrea Nasfell have delivered "Moms' Night Out."

Aside from some fairly prominent but not overly preachy -- and thankfully not stilted -- religious messages, the pic somewhat follows the outline of its predecessor, albeit with a harried young mother in the lead rather than a teen whose boyfriend has canceled their anniversary date. That woman is Allyson (Sarah Drew), a mother of three, whose husband (Sean Astin) if often away from home on business, thus leaving her to fend for herself and the effects of the chaos, mess and germs on her increasingly fragile psyche.

She knows her friend (Andrea Logan White) can relate, what with having young twins and a husband (Robert Amaya) who's less than an ideal (or confident) father. But she's envious of the preacher's wife (Patricia Heaton) who seems to have it all together, unaware of the trials and tribulations of raising a teen daughter (Sammi Hanratty). The three women end up planning a night out on the town together, but (as the saying goes, sort of), the best laid plans of mice and women...

From botched dinner reservations to Allyson's sister-in-law (Abbie Cobb) realizing her baby isn't being babysat as promised/intended, the filmmakers intend to mine laughs both from plans going awry to encounters with various outside characters such as Trace Adkins playing a biker/tattoo parlor artist, while Heaton's real-life husband, David Hunt, plays a British cabbie in bits that don't work that well. As all of that transpires, the men (including the addition of the single and childless character played by Kevin Downes) must deal with the kids and the unexpected developments that brings.

There are a lot of plates up in the air simultaneously, but while they don't come crashing down, the comedy isn't as funny as intended, with some early creative (but not original) flourishes, such as neurotic-based imagined scenarios, onscreen drawing overlays, and voice-over descriptions from the young mom mostly drying up in the second half. And the various adventures and action aren't as zany as all involved seem to believe.

In fact, the best parts of the film come from quieter moments, some of which are quite touching, such as Adkins' character giving the protagonist some advice about life, self-expectations, and the thought of not beating oneself up over not being perfect. But considering the flick is about empowering women (and particularly mothers), it's a bit odd that it has blatant messages that depict women in old-fashioned ways and mindsets. That includes Allyson stating all she dreamed about as a girl was to grow up and be a mom, while also stating that she listens to her husband (implied to be in a subservient fashion) because it says so in the Bible.

Thankfully, that philosophy doesn't permeate the film, but it does put an additional damper on the fun, comedy and adventure that are already mediocre at best. Perhaps with a few more runs through the screenwriting process, this could have been just what the doctor ordered for real world moms needing a break from the chaos, stress and mess of parenting. As it stands, "Moms' Night Out" has some decent moments, but not enough to warrant a rating higher than 5 out of 10.

Reviewed May 7, 2014 / Posted May 9, 2014

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