Is it Terrible Christmas Movie season already? Seems like Terrible Halloween Movie season just ended. The first of this year’s miserable entries is “A Bad Moms Christmas,” a grim followup to last year’s modestly amusing “moms gone wild” raunch-com that thrived on chemistry between harried Mila Kunis, subservient Kristen Bell, and reckless Kathryn Hahn. The sequel separates them most of the time and waters down their personalities. You know, for the holidays.
This time, returning writer-directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore bring the moms’ moms into it, splitting up the three leads and bogging them down with broad, farcical conflicts. To wit:
– Amy (Kunis) is exasperated by her snobby, critical mother Ruth (Christine Baranski), for whom nothing is ever good enough. Ruth, a cold woman who seems disinterested in her daughter and only mildly interested in her grandchildren, believes the way to show love — which, again, she does not otherwise seem interested in doing — is through extravagant Christmases that include seeing the five-hour Russian version of “The Nutcracker” (not the lame “enjoyable” one) and throwing a party — in Amy’s house, on Christmas Eve, without her consent — for 150 people.
– Kiki (Bell) loves her mom, Sandy (Cheryl Hines), but Sandy is clingy, having arrived early to spend “every waking moment” of the next three weeks with her. Sandy creeps into Kiki’s bedroom every night to watch her sleep. Desiring to establish some boundaries, Kiki takes Sandy to a therapist (Wanda Sykes) — spur of the moment, three days before Christmas — the result of which is that Sandy thinks she and Kiki need to spend MORE time together, which inspires her to buy the house next door to Kiki, on a whim, and pay with cash. No explanation is given for how this is possible, much less how Sandy made an offer and closed on the house, keys in hand, all between Friday the 22nd and Christmas Eve Sunday.
– Carla (Hahn), who’s less irresponsible than before and works at a spa, is surprised when her deadbeat gambler mother, Isis (Susan Sarandon), shows up to visit. Does she want money? Yes, as it turns out. The two alternate between partying together (they share a common interest in male strippers) and bickering over Isis’ absenteeism and general flakiness.
After tormenting their daughters for 90 minutes, the three grandmothers end up at the same midnight mass on Christmas Eve, where they resolve to change their ways. The next morning — that is to say, Christmas Day, somewhere between eight and 10 hours after midnight mass — Isis tells Carla that she got a job at the local family fun center! She applied for the job, took a drug test, got the results of the drug test back, and was hired, all today. This morning. Christmas morning. A few hours later, the grandmothers (who are now best friends) must leave Christmas dinner early because they spontaneously decided to spend New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas and their flight departs now, six days before New Year’s Eve.
As you can see, the film’s level of reality is that of a comedy sketch. It’s an issue I had with the other “Bad Moms,” too: Lucas and Moore are so lazy with the details that you get the impression they’ve never experienced real life before, like rich kids in a trust-fund bubble who get to be 40 years old without ever buying their own groceries, or whatever. It doesn’t make for a relatable story, which was originally the point of all this. And then there’s the last act, where suddenly we’re supposed to care about these one-dimensional characters’ feelings just because we’re at the point in the movie where that usually happens. It was a mediocre concept to begin with, and Lucas and Moore made it worse. Merry Christmas!
D (1 hr., 44 min.; )