STX FILMS (2017)

 

Directors: Jon Lucas / Scott Moore

 

Starring: Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Cheryl Hines, Christine Baranski, Susan Sarandon, Justin Hartley

“Christmas is by far the most stressful time of the year.”

 

The gap between Christmas 2016 and 2017 was probably fairly cheek-clenching for directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore as they wrote, directed and delivered A Bad Moms Christmas, the sequel to Bad Moms, within that timeframe. No time to waste clearly. Cashing in on the surprise summer success of its predecessor, the follow-up was rushed out to capitalize on the triumph and provide festive cheer for beleaguered mummy’s out there.

 

It’s nothing new, but it’s still pretty mom-ing funny.

Still battered by life, the besieged trio, Amy (Kunis), Kiki (Bell) and Carla (Hahn), return for more hijinks and shenanigans, only this time there’s extra pressure – it's Christmas time. But wait, there’s extra extra pressure – their own parents are coming to visit and spread their own versions of festive cheer. Amy’s mom, Ruth (Baranksi), is domineering and dismissive, whereas Sandy (Hines) is desperate to be as creepily close as possible to her daughter Kiki. Cut from the same cloth as her loud daughter Carla, Isis (Sarandon), rolls into town off the back of gambling debts and money issues. Together, the three Grandma’s manage to upheave their daughters Christmas plans and open the floodgates for more raunch and hurdles to overcome – including stripping Santas, genital waxing, new nosey neighbours, Kenny G in your kitchen plus, of course, the need to reconnect with your loved ones.

 

Bad Moms proudly led with the tribulations mom’s face in daily life, whereas A Bad Moms Christmas takes the established characters and places them in a smaller situation surrounding family (as opposed to PTA’s etc.) and the best time of the year. Without having to introduce the major players, the writers are obviously more comfortable with the characters and it shows, though they clearly didn’t feel the need to develop them here. The original movie played the ‘what it means to be a mom’ card tighter and with greater clarity, making A Bad Moms Christmas seem slightly…empty in comparison. There are obvious messages about mother-daughter relationships (this time with the established characters and their moms) and the bonds of friendship, however, it’s clear the movie exists just for some good-time feels and comedy…and to capitalise on its predecessor’s success.

 

The returning stars fit back into their roles snugly and deliver solid performances – with a few caveats. This time around, it seems Hahn has restrained her own act slightly which results in a more enjoyable performance, however, Kristen Bell clearly has bottom billing here. It seems the writers didn’t feel the need to give her all that much to do and that’s a shame given her talent (though I’m still shuddering at Pulse). Her on-screen mother falls into the same trap, the least developed of the newcomers, Cheryl Hines provides the movies weak link. Susan Sarandon desperately attempts to score a cinematic hit, and she is fun to watch as the bizarrely-named Isis but the star performer is Christine Baranski. With her authoritarian approach and stony demeanour, she steals the majority of the movies laughs and was always enjoyable to watch – in both fun and heart-warming scenes.

 

The comedy comes thick and fast and, for the majority of the movie, the gags hit the mark. A scene with Carla waxing the big schlong of festive stripper and hunk, Ty Swindel (Hartley), provides the humour highlight, but there’s plenty more to be found, and not just involving sex, dicks and booze – but there are still plenty of those throughout (jizzing gingerbread penis, anyone?). The three leads still have great chemistry and work well off of each other, and their respective mothers also. However, for those fed up of the clichéd slow-motion shots of chaos, switch off now – there are a fair few throughout the movie, and some of the scenes are pretty much pulled from the original and given new clothes to wear which is disappointing. The one slow-mo scene that really works is our favourite threesome smothering Santa Claus and treating him to a dance each. Christmas may have come early for that guy.

 

At the same time of this movie’s release, a similar, male-led movie is released (Daddy’s Home 2) which pretty much follows the same plot and beats as A Bad Moms Christmas, so it will be interesting to see which movie triumphs. I can’t imagine it’ll be Daddy’s Home 2.

 

A rushed follow-up to a surprise hit doesn’t usually provide much to cling on to. A Bad Moms Christmas (similar to Bad Moms) doesn’t offer any surprises or reinvent the genre, but at the same time, the movie is clearly not trying to be clever or anything other than what it literally is – fun, festive comedy. If you weren’t a fan of the original, this won’t change your mind, but for me, A Bad Moms Christmas is a better all-round movie and is a good fun Christmas flick.

 

Don’t expect a comedy masterpiece, and you may just be fine.

November 7th 2017

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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