A Bad Mom’s Christmas (2017) Review

A sad step own from its predecessor.

by Steve Pulaski

A Bad Moms Christmas echoes the process of Boo 2! A Madea Halloween and faithful readers of my work will know that's one of the last films I would want it to emulate. Another rushed holiday-themed sequel intent on tainting whatever comic convictions its predecessor had, A Bad Moms Christmas gets by on situational comedy as predictable as a Full House episode you've seen a dozen times with considerably less nostalgic charm.

It's another film part of the breed I call "maximum antics, minimum laughter," a type of motion picture that has a lot of ribald scenarios, some gross-out gags, and prolific attempts at comedy that inspire few laughs. Like Bad Teacher and The Other Woman, it's a film that features some really committed and passionate performances by recognizable faces, which might effectively trick you into thinking you've just witnessed a more memorable comedy than you have. Admittedly, it's not the lazy spinoff "Bad Dads" we could've gotten, but the fact that a potentially unrelated follow-up is the comparative lower-point with this film shows you we're miles away from anything of real comedic value - or even the quality of the original film.

The film opens with a familiar monologue from Amy (Mila Kunis), who led a rebellion with her friends in the previous Bad Moms against the mythical idea of trying to be "the perfect mom." She talks about how dreadful the holidays are when you have young children who expect the world from you and you're tasked with making sure everything, from the decorations, the baked goods, to, of course, the Christmas shopping, is picture-perfect. Amy envisions a simple holiday season for her, her boyfriend Jesse (Jay Hernandez), and two children until her mother Ruth (Christine Baranski) phones, informing her daughter that her and her father Hank (Peter Gallagher) will be visiting for the holidays.

Amy dreads her mother and her perfectionist ways, that do nothing but put exorbitant pressure on her to be something that she's not. Ruth is the domineering matriarch taken to the extreme, with unrealistic expectations for her daughter and the Christmas-image she conveys to her children, also quick to highlight the disappointment that few besides her feel. For Amy's friends, Kiki (Kristen Bell) gets a visit from her clingy mother Sandy (Cheryl Hines), and as for the foul-mouthed and promiscuous Carla (Kathryn Hahn), she sees her gambler mother Isis (Susan Sarandon) for the first time in years as she comes with motivations that involve money (that never materialize into anything despite the screenplay suggesting otherwise).

As mentioned with the performances, Bad Moms was notable for being a film that had fairly average writing yet found elevation thanks to the great chemistry Kunis, Bell, and Hahn had amongst each other. In this sequel, they're more-or-less forced into the background because the grandmothers are so much fun to watch, in particular, the lovely Cheryl Hines. Ever since her role minimized on the HBO program Curb Your Enthusiasm, I've craved more Cheryl Hines in any form I can get, and in A Bad Moms Christmas, her form is rare as she's so believably overbearing in terms of not giving Bell's Kiki any room to breathe. All of the grandmothers are broadly drawn exaggerations of common mom-archetypes, but Hines boasts a particular gravity, appearing the most believably realistic in her current form of all the grandmothers in the film.

Having said that, Baranski evidently enjoys playing a stern, contemptible woman with impossibly high-standards and little room for negotiation. Baranski's Ruth plans to throw a legendary Christmas bash at her daughter's house, complete with appetizers, lace curtains, and jazz sensation Kenny G, an idea that Amy wholeheartedly rejects in the face of insurmountable planning and the desire to have a "mellow" Christmas. Baranski throws herself into character, earning the title of the film's antagonist, while Sarandon basks in the free-form spirit she often brings to those she portrays. Neither are as uproariously funny as Hines so frequently is, but all shine when they're on-screen.

Sadly, that's where most of the fun stops for A Bad Moms Christmas: the jokes are contrived, you have extended sequences, one involving Carla waxing a male stripper's genitals, that never come close to being funny, and the pacing is comprised of an over-reliance on montages. It's almost astounding how A Bad Moms Christmas feels like an uninspired skit-show crossed with quickly paced montages that zoom past at lightning speed, communicating little besides similar tired bouts of debauchery we saw en masse in the previous film.

Put the topping on the Christmas dessert in the form of excusing one's oppressive, smothering behavior in a way that's narrowly as unforgivable and egregious as it was in The Glass Castle just a couple months back and you have A Bad Moms Christmas. Not offensively bad although a saddening step-down in quality from its predecessor, the film does show there is a great deal of parity in sequels to comedies. You either knock it out of the park, in a very rare instance, wait around long enough until interest fades and jokes become dated, or churn one out at lightning speed, several months after the original occupied theaters, and dilute the material before it even got adequately warmed up. In this case, and with Boo 2! still in theaters as well, the multiplex is beginning to look a lot like deja vu moreso than the ubiquitous holiday.

Steve's Grade: D+

3 Week Diet

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