'A Bad Moms Christmas'
Last year’s ‘Bad Moms’ felt like a joke pitch that went too far and somehow became a movie. Yet, thanks to a perfectly assembled cast and a script that had enough laughs to overcome a parade of clichés, the comedy was somehow a massive hit. Now the team behind that film has doubled down for a sequel called ‘A Bad Moms Christmas’. This is really pushing it, but thankfully enough jokes land that it’s not embarrassing to sit through.
Considering that the last movie allowed the three central moms – Amy, Kiki and Carla (Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn) – to solve all their problems through raunchy set-pieces, there wasn’t really much conflict left for a sequel. Here’s a thought, though: Moms have moms too. (Some call them grandmothers. I feel no need to judge.) Why not bring them on board for some intergenerational mom conflict?
As such, we discover that overworked Amy has a remarkably passive-aggressive perfectionist mother (Christine Baranski, perfectly cast-to-type) who goes out of her way to criticize and control everything in her path. Perky pushover Kiki gets Cheryl Hines as an overly loving and invasively obsessive super-fan mommy to make her life uncomfortable. And hard-partying potty-mouth Carla gets a super-cool stoner mommy in Susan Sarandon, who’s also a perpetual absentee with a gambling problem. All the mommy’s mommies show up at Christmas. Everything goes wrong by Christmas Eve, forcing the original Bad Moms to save Christmas for their kids. Will they do it? Does the expanded cast mean that there’s virtually no screen time or consideration for the children who are supposed to be the heart of the franchise? If you don’t think the answer to both questions is yes, then you really need to work on paying attention.
First, the obvious bad news: You might find this hard to believe, but ‘Hangover’ screenwriters-turned-directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore clearly didn’t think that ‘Bad Moms 1’ was going to be a hit, and their Christmastime sequel was obviously a rush job squeezed out within a lighting fast 12-month deadline. Viewers will long for even the pedestrian plotting of the last movie, which while obvious at least managed to hit all the satisfying beats of a three-act narrative structure. The sequel has so many new characters and holiday-themed genre requirements that there’s essentially no time for competent storytelling, human heart, or character growth. Instead, all the characters get their one-joke premise established, it’s repeated a few times, everybody fights, and then they all make up and talk about the importance of mommying/Christmas. This thing is barely a story. It’s joke and product-placement delivery system.
Fortunately for viewers, it’s a good joke delivery system thanks to one hell of a cast of funny ladies. Mila Kunis and Kristen Bell are far more talented than their clichéd roles deserve and constantly get laughs out of moments that would typically thud in lesser hands. Kathryn Hahn once again steals the show in a series of hard-R filthy gags (including meeting the love of her life while waxing his balls) that wouldn’t be nearly as funny with a lesser performer. The grandma cast are all ringers who help smooth over the gaps that would have emerged from expanding the meager premises of the original characters. Christine Baranski essentially replays the condescending snot that she’s been typecast in since the ’90s, but gets some of the best dialogue she’s had in years. Cheyryl Hines and Susan Sarandon have less to work with in characters that are barely summed up in a single joke, but they’re such charming and amusing screen presences that they make it work.
‘A Bad Moms Christmas’ has enough laughs spread throughout to be worth a watch for those pleasantly surprised enough by the original to even have a mild interest in returning for a sequel. As far as unnecessary Christmas comedy sequels go, it’s less obnoxiously unnecessary than ‘Bad Santa 2’, but not as enjoyably insane as ‘A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas’. Given that neither of those aforementioned Christmas comedies is particularly great, make of that what you will. This movie at least isn’t the embarrassingly desperate disaster that the title suggests; it’s just a lazily plotted collection of hit-and-miss jokes and the awkward product placement that paid for it all. If that sounds enjoyable, you could have worse nights at the movies than this.