“A Bad Moms Christmas” Movie Review


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     There’s no doubt 2016’s “Bad Moms” was an unexpected breakout Summer hit, utilizing the performances of a likable trio comprised of Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn, and Kristen Bell and a script written by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore that seemed to hit home for women who flocked to the film in droves.  In an attempt to strike while the iron is hot, the writing and directing duo have managed to turn around a sequel just a year later, attempting to again harness what made the first film successful while placing the events this time during the Christmas holiday with “A Bad Moms Christmas”.  Let the Christmas film cliches begin.

     I don’t think even the most dedicated “Bad Moms” fan would have expected a sequel this soon, and it’s a shame the filmmakers didn’t take more time to really build upon these characters and the relationships they have with their children and other family members.  “A Bad Moms Christmas” treats all of them as if they are merely punchlines, good only for a profanity laced one liner and not much more.  The script is an utter disaster narratively speaking, counting down the days about a week before Christmas in order to explain the film’s first scene, which has Amy (Mila Kunis) sitting in her home where we are to assume a Christmas party of some kind has gone sideways and her narration telling us we are about to find out how she got there.  From the beginning, I really had no interest in finding out, especially when realizing the story structure is a direct lift from the three “The Hangover” films, slathered with all the Christmas vomit one can handle.

     The film is so lacking in sustainable story lines, that directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore continually stage slow motion montages, featuring our three main characters, which serve to connect boring and poorly written scenes together as the moms are shown doing bad things in an effort to blow off steam and help reduce the stress each of them puts on themselves during the Christmas holiday.  It’s always surprising when a film that is supposed to be about women empowering themselves turns out to instead mimic all of the bad habits commonly displayed by and associated with men.  So are we meant to think seeing Amy, Kiki (Kirsten Bell), and Carla (Kathryn Hahn) boozing it up, stealing items from stores, and baking cookies shaped like male genitals as being some form of female enlightenment?  Aren’t the filmmakers aware we as a society are numb to this sort of thing?  And we haven't even begun to discuss the endless holiday movie tropes the film utilizes to ensure we know it’s a Christmas movie too.

     Films of this nature always feel the need to include scenes where the relatives show up for their holiday visit only to eventually turn everything upside down and “A Bad Moms Christmas” is no exception.  Amy’s mom, played by Christine Baranski, seems to be a walking metaphor for the senseless expectations moms often create in order to have what would be considered an idealistic holiday experience for all.  She comes from high society and immediately gushes about her own annual Christmas accomplishments while demeaning her daughter’s.  She also consistently showers her two grandchildren with expensive and unearned gifts that their mother has previously said they could not have.  The conflict is only worsened when she refuses to acknowledge Jessie (Jay Hernandez), who along with his daughter are now a big part of Amy’s life after the events in the first film, dismissing him as a valet whose purpose is to get her bags from the car.  And in one of the biggest head scratchers in the film, everyone seems to ignore the fact that Amy’s father (played by Peter Gallagher) is there as well but curiously is left out of key scenes, including Christmas morning, as if his presence or opinion doesn't matter at all to anyone.  Two other moms join the fray as well, including Kiki’s extremely overbearing mother played by Cheryl Hines, and Carla’s rock band roady mother who arrives via a semi truck she hitchhiked on played by Susan Sarandon.

     If the film gets anything right, it may be Amy’s mom functioning as a character who represents all that is wrong with Christmas in the first place.  The thought that everything can be perfect in this world that we live in is one that can never be achieved, especially considering how “perfect” is defined by so many people.  And what are we teaching our kids by lavishing them with expensive gifts they will never truly be thankful for and probably don't deserve anyway given the narcissistic heathen we are churning out these days thanks to the advent of social media and the brain frying power of the iPhone.  Aside from a curious scene in which the three older moms have a normal voice tone conversation in a church amongst other people while mass is going on (not sure why those around them didn’t ask them to be quiet), there is absolutely no reference as to what Christmas actually is or means.

     All of this leads to the inevitable explosion as the relationships explored reach their boiling point and eventually goes the sentimental route, completely changing tone in an attempt to become a credible holiday story.  And it’s this approach that leads to the film’s undoing since the filmmakers can’t decide if they are making a raunchy comedy or family film about Christmas and what’s really important about the holidays.  Even more ironic, given the film’s title, is the fact I had what appeared to be a four year old sitting next to me in the theater with who I assume was her mother, leaving me to wonder what that kid was thinking when a male stripper visits Carla’s place of employment and receives a waxing of his genital area.  Somehow I doubt the questions during the car ride home had anything to do with Santa Claus.  Make no mistake, “A Bad Moms Christmas” is R-rated for good reason, laying on the profanity laced and sexually explicit mischief ad nauseam, while still trying to emboss the proceedings with a feel good vibe.  The result is nothing more than a Hollywood cash grab and rush job that might have been more effective with at least another year of story and script refinement.  As is, “A Bad Moms Christmas” is among the worst films of the year.  GRADE: D