Taking Back Christmas
“Bad Moms Christmas” was on my radar for a while. I knew it starred incredible actresses and after I saw the trailer, I knew I had to see it, if I got the opportunity. I’d failed to see “Bad Moms” due to lack of time but the trailer for the sequel gave me hope that I could still enjoy “Bad Moms Christmas” without having seen the first film. That hope was absolutely fulfilled with fun, heart and Christmas cheer.
“Bad Moms Christmas” written and directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, returns to the concept of the original film, that of three overworked and stressed out moms dealing with all the burdens of Christmas as well as the arrival of their own mothers, visiting and providing their own expectations to the holiday. Amy Mitchell (Mila Kunis) just wants a relaxing Christmas with her children, Jane (Oona Laurence), Dylan (Emjay Anthony) along with her new boyfriend Jessie (Jay Hernandez) and his daughter Lori (Ariana Greenblatt). Unfortunately, she doesn’t get it.
Instead her mother Ruth (Christine Baranski) arrives full of expectations of the perfect Christmas. Her father Hank (Peter Gallagher) allows Ruth to lead the way which leaves Amy struggling to get back her joy of Christmas. She connects with her friends, Kiki (Kristen Bell) and Carla (Kathryn Hahn) who are having mother problems of their own. Kiki’s mom Sandy (Cheryl Hines) is clingy and has boundary issues while Carla’s mom Isis (Susan Sarandon) is only visiting to ask her daughter for money. The three decide that if they want their Christmas to survive they’re going to have to take it back for themselves with hilarious results.
Disrupting the status quo is what the first movie is all about and the sequel is equally successful at doing so, giving viewers another viewpoint on Christmas, one is which you can have a successful Christmas by relaxing and spending time with your family, that it doesn’t have to be about high end gifts or the perfect dinner or perfect decorations but about the little things, like connecting with family and friends. The film does this by using humor to poke fun at the traditional views of family and Christmas with scenes like stealing a tree from Footlocker, making inappropriate gingerbread cookies, and showing the three women taking care of their children despite their lack of perfection, like drinking in the food court and sexy dancing with Santa at the mall. All three love their families and want them to have a good Christmas.
The movie is packed with laughs, extrapolating off the three women’s issues with their mothers as well as their relationships with the men in their lives. While most of the humor explores the dynamics between the women and their mothers, there are some raunchy, sexual bits that are over the top funny and silly. It is paced to coincide with the three confronting their mothers and giving them resolutions that fit each character and while all three play to type, it is done well, playing on their strengths and heightening the comedy of the film. One of the things I loved the best is that while the comedy is very female oriented, it plays on the parental issues all three have which makes it accessible to men as well.
The acting is what builds the humor. Mila Kunis is strong and plays well off Christine Baranski who is her usual brilliantly funny self. I’ve always loved Christine Baranski in everything she’s done and this movie is no exception. She plays the tyrannical mother with ease but also shows sensitivity at all the right times. Kristen Bell plays stressed and naive beautifully with Cheryl Hines adorably wacky and just a touch psycho. Kathryn Hahn is bawdy, sexy, and raunchy with Susan Sarandon as her grifter mother matching her joke for joke. Peter Gallagher stole his scenes with his ability to inject subtle comedy into the mix adding the perfect touch to the movie. His little silent cheer when driven away from a five hour Nutcracker ballet cracked me up. Justin Hartley shows up as a suitor for Carla, playing Ty, a male stripper. Not only is he gorgeous but his dancing is one of the bits that made me laugh the hardest.
There are some bits that don’t work as well. The children feel more like window dressing, whether that’s because they’re given little time on screen or because of writing, it left certain moments flat. The film is much more about the mother’s than the children and I would have liked to see more utilization of the entire cast. Jessie and Kiki’s husband are lost in the crowd also with Peter Gallagher and Justin Hartley having the funnier scenes. There was also a scene with Jessie’s daughter, Lori using bad language that while cute almost becomes overused.
The other piece I noticed is that the storyline is predictable. There is the conflict between the three women along with their confrontation of their mothers. While it works, mostly due to the great lines, fantastic timing and acting on the part of all of the women, there were very few surprises. It played with familiar dynamics which will resonate with a wide audience but isn’t groundbreaking.
Those small flaws notwithstanding, I laughed almost the entire time. The women were fantastic, sexy and played their parts with humor and brilliance. The film was completely inappropriate, way over the top, and with great use of cursing on the part of the adults. It’s hilarious from start to finish (I recommend staying through the credits) while at heart still being about family and friends during the holidays.
Rating: 4 stars ~~ Andrea Rittschof