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Killing brain cells

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By Richard Roeper

Movie Review
A Bad Moms Christmas
Directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore

DEEP into the inept and lazy and uninspired A Bad Moms Christmas, a number of main characters are at a Midnight Mass in Chicago.

While sitting in a pew, a mother and daughter get into a deep and prolonged conversation. I mean, they talk for like FIVE MINUTES.

Real-world tip: Don’t try to have a long, tear-filled confrontation during Mass on Christmas Eve in Chicago. Celebration of Jesus notwithstanding, either the parishioners or an usher or the priest himself will toss you out of there.

Back to that church scene for a moment. The clock strikes 12, and one of the characters says, “We have to save Christmas!”

And so they leave in THE MIDDLE OF CHRISTMAS MASS and run home to “save Christmas” by plastering a house with a million decorations.

Of all the movies with “Christmas” in the title, A Bad Moms Christmas ranks near the very bottom of the list for, you know, understanding Christmas.

Even a farcical, R-rated, deliberately “edgy” comedy should strive for some kind of consistency, some kind of connection to a world to which we can relate, but the sequel to Bad Moms (which I thoroughly enjoyed) can’t be bothered with simple things like keeping track of characters or being faithful to the events of the original. It’s sloppy to the point of distraction — not that the forced hijinks and ridiculous storylines are actually worthy of our attention.

The ever-charming Mila Kunis returns as Amy Mitchell, divorced mom of Dylan (Emjay Anthony) and Jane (Oona Laurence), who seem to exist solely to comment on their mother’s misadventures. Amy is still dating the hunky Jessie (Jay Hernandez), who never wipes the “I know I’m good-looking” half-smile off his face, regardless of the mood at hand.

Kristen Bell is the sweet Kiki and Kathryn Hahn (way over the top) plays Carla, who remains rude and crude and cheerfully offensive. (Carla loves to make fun of her teenage son for being dumb. Really dumb. As in, he seems to be mentally challenged. Gosh that’s funny.)

As learned in the first Bad Moms, the Bad Moms are actually pretty great moms. So where to go with the sequel? Bring in the bad moms of the Bad Moms!

Christine Baranski plays Amy’s mother, who is racist and anti-Semitic and domineering and controlling, and just an awful, awful human being.

Cheryl Hines is Kiki’s mother, who is obsessed with her daughter. She gets the same hairstyle as Kiki. She wears clothes with Kiki’s picture plastered all over them. She sniffs her daughter like an overeager puppy.

She is in need of immediate and serious psychiatric help.

And finally we have Susan Sarandon as Carla’s mother. She’s a free spirit who hasn’t seen her daughter in years, doesn’t know her grandson’s name, and has a serious gambling problem.

These aren’t bad moms; they’re nightmare caricatures.

Amy’s mother is a monster. It’s hard to mine laughs from a character who treats everyone around her like dirt. (When the screenplay calls for Grandma to suddenly become sweet and understanding, the swing in tone feels arbitrary and calculated.) Amy’s father, played by Peter Gallagher, is such an inconsequential character he simply disappears at times. After one huge event — an event Dad would have attended, by all logical assumptions — he walks in from the cold and says to his daughter, “I heard what happened.” Heard what happened? Where were you, Pops?

Justin Hartley (This Is Us) plays Ty Swindle, a stripper from Cleveland who is in Chicago for the holidays to participate in a number of “Sexy Santa” competitions. Is that a thing? The Sexy Santa circuit? A scene in which Carla gives Ty a major waxing is profoundly unfunny and goes on forever. (Later, Ty shows up at a family event and performs a lewd dance in full view of several small children. Wacky!)

You know a comedy is in trouble when it resorts to the Funny Montage multiple times. Whether it’s a booze-soaked romp at the mall or a spirited game of family dodgeball, cue the music and cut to the slow-motion hijinks. That’ll kill another two minutes.

And a few more of the viewer’s brain cells. — Chicago Sun-Times/Andrews McMeel Syndication

Rating: 1 and a half ★s
MTRCB Rating: R-13

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