Editor Chloe Woods reviews the Bad Moms holiday sequel.
I believe I’ve spotted a theme when it comes to sequels for comedy films: add more funny people, but have the humour take a backseat to heartfelt, meaningful moments. That, or double down on the slapstick. (Judging by the trailer, this would be the preferred method of Daddy’s Home 2, which has gone for exactly the same method of expanding on its original premise as the film under review: have the protagonists’ parents visit for Christmas. It would be interesting to perform a compare-and-contrast of the films but – and perhaps saving this reviewer’s sanity – I can’t stand Mark Wahlberg.) We’re fortunate, at least, A Bad Moms Christmas goes with the first method.
So. Amy (Mila Kunis), Kiki (Kristen Bell) and Carla (Kathryn Hahn) are our three original bad moms. The plot of the first movie, if you haven’t seen it, is almost totally irrelevant, though (and this, too, is a theme) the film will not bother to explain any of the established interpersonal dynamics and certainly won’t build upon them, so good luck understanding why any of these people matter to each other. (Unless, I suppose, you consider Amy’s new boyfriend getting a Christmas invite to be a character arc.) The focus is almost entirely on their variably-screwed-up relationships with their mothers, respectively: Ruth (Christine Baranski), Sandy (Cheryl Hines) and Isis, yes, “like the terrorist organisation” (Susan Sarandon looking as if she’s highly enjoying herself). They run the usual gamut of bad-mother stereotypes: Ruth is the overly-demanding, culturally snobbish perfectionist, Isis the negligent stoner who swings into town every three years for gambling money, and – wildcard number 3 – Sandy the overly-clingy one with no sense of boundaries whatsoever.
The plot quick-steps through the predictable beats by means of the expected shenanigans: getting drunk in a mall, a rather entertaining dodgeball game, the moms alternately cowing before and standing up to their mothers. For Amy, our lead, things culminate at the massive Christmas party (sushi, camels and Kenny G included) threatened throughout the film, while the others have their own breaking points. Then everybody kisses and makes up and celebrates Christmas together. I mean, that’s not even a spoiler, is it? Outside this, we have a tacked-on romance plot for Carla (her possible loneliness is mentioned only twenty or so minutes into the movie, and the subplot itself is deliberately ridiculous – it basically consists of a string of big-dick jokes and ties into little else in the film – and, uh, the guy is handsome, I suppose? I can’t really tell), and the development of a friendship between the grandmothers themselves (oddly sweet, in its way, though it does call to attention that Sandy is rather more deranged than the other two).
It’s entertaining enough, for the most part. All the cast members can handle the comedy required of them, which, though we might call it a bare minimum for a funny movie, is not always the case. It’s not bad. There’s just nothing particularly memorable about this film: it’s the same kind of thing we’ve been seeing all our lives, over and over again. That in itself is arguably the most interesting thing about it. What do we tell each other when we’re not paying attention? That children are the most important thing in a woman’s life (I somehow doubt the sentiment will be echoed for the fathers in Daddy’s Home); that if raising us drove our mothers crazy, we are not to criticise them (as Wanda Sykes tells us in a bizarre – enjoyable, sure, but bizarre – cameo as Sandy and Kiki’s therapist); that we are to forgive people who’ve made no effort to apologise or make amends for bringing Kenny G into our homes. Also that small children swearing will always be hilarious. I don’t know. It’s just a funny movie, right?
Bad Moms Christmas is out now in UK cinemas. Watch the trailer below.