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November 8, 2017

A Bad Moms Christmas

by Franz Patrick


Bad Moms Christmas, A (2017)
★★ / ★★★★

There is a handful of good ideas in “A Bad Moms Christmas,” adding the moms’ moms into the chaotic holiday equation among them, but none of them are thoroughly realized in order to create a sequel that is not only necessary but also a natural progression in terms of mothers’ roles in providing X-Mas cheer to everyone in their familial and social spheres. Laughs are sprinkled throughout, some of them big ones, but for a movie that is supposed to highlight the many struggles that mothers go through during the most stressful time of year, the situational comedy often comes across as superficial, especially those that involve unnecessary slapstick humor. The screenplay requires a bit more soul-searching.

The three mothers introduced are played by Susan Sarandon, Cheryl Hines, and Christine Baranski—the rock ’n roll mom, the mom with an unhealthy attachment to her daughter, and the perfectionist, controlling, type-A mom, respectively. All are written with distinct personalities and the performers are able to find varying notes, often in one scene, as to prevent the characters from becoming stale. One must be singled out. Baranski is a scene-stealer; she can say paragraphs while merely employing sharp looks and an entire essay using a sigh followed by prolonged silence. Every time she is on screen, she commands the room as if she were the lead in the film that was all about her. I want to see a movie that focuses on this character being played by none other than Baranski.

The mothers from the predecessor (Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn) is the less entertaining half. While they are certainly not as over-the-top as their mothers, notice there is barely any evolution to these central characters. Kunis, Bell, and Hahn retain their solid chemistry as a group, but I found the characters to be whinier this time. Consistently, they fail to find resourceful avenues to attempt to solve their problems. Perhaps the reason why their mothers are introduced in this installment is because the central characters have already learned nearly everything they could to be able to raise happy children in the previous film. It is frustrating that the writer-directors, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, have lost sight of the main protagonists.

As far as holiday comedies involving dysfunctional families go, there are effective tear-jerker moments toward the end. Particularly moving is the church scene between Kunis and Baranski. It is impressive how the former is able to shift suddenly toward a more dramatic tone with utmost sincerity. We have seen her in plenty of comedies and some sci-fi, fantasy, and thrillers thus far. It made me wonder how Kunis might fare in classically dramatic roles. It might be interesting because her look and the way she carries herself is so modern. But I think she has it in her to excel in dramatic roles with the best actors in the business.

“A Bad Moms Christmas” is a stocking filled with mixed goodies. But what cannot be denied is the energy behind the performances. At times the actors manage to sell the stupidest jokes and because they try so hard, we laugh anyway… sometimes simply because of how awkward it is. Here is a comedy that is entertaining enough but one that is not as smart nor as pointed as it could have been had the writers taken the time to really hone in on 1) who the main characters are, 2) why this chapter is worth telling, and 3) the connections between points one and two.

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