‘Moms’ Night Out’ Review: Mother Inferior

'Moms' Night Out'

Movie Rating:


Sony/TriStar’s unexpected dip into the Christian film market continues with a tale of four wacky moms. Things get a little hairy when this gang tries against all odds to have a fun night out, but don’t worry, everything works out just in time to hammer home a message about Jesus and the good word.

‘Moms’ Night Out’ belongs to that peculiar subgenre of “one bad night” comedy adventures, including such titles as ‘After Hours’, ‘Superbad’, ‘Date Night’ and ‘Adventures in Babysitting’. This one falls into the softer second half of that list, and is actually softer than even the ’80s babysitting adventure given that the flick is specifically geared for a Christian audience. It’s about a group of frazzled moms who decide that they need a night alone to blow off some steam at a church function, but get more than they bargained for. They’re thrust into a world of canceled reservations, renegade bowling alley dance competitions, and even people with tattoos who look like they might spend more than the occasional weeknight out of their homes possibly getting up to trouble. (The horror!) It’s a very safe comedy with hints of bad behavior, and it’s almost charmingly innocent and old fashioned in its nauseatingly wholesome style.

Sarah Drew stars as a wannabe mommy blogger whose homemaking life is spiraling out of control. She opens the film on the verge of a nervous breakdown and only gets worse from there, hinting at a far better comedy that will never be made about a mother actually going insane from stress. Desperate for a break, she enlists her best friend (Logan White) and her Pastor’s wife (Patricia Heaton) to share a Groupon for a fancy restaurant. Of course, things go wrong. The reservation is for the wrong night, Drew’s husband (Sean Astin) invites his best friend (Kevin Downs) to help watch the kids and possibly play violent videogames, and there’s also a bird along for the ride for some reason. Things take a turn for the crazy when an attempt to salvage the night at a bowling alley leads to discovering that Drew’s troubled half sister (Abbie Cobb, who has two colors in her hair, so you know she’s a lost soul) can’t find their baby. Soon, with the help of a creepily interested cab driver (David Hunt) and a biker with a heart of gold named Bones (Trace Adkins), the mom’s are running around desperately trying to find the baby and maybe, just maybe learning an important lesson about motherhood and the big G.O.D.

The cast and crew pretty much all come from the direct-to-DVD Christian movie market that has been tearing up church basements for a decade and now seems to have gotten an unlikely backing from Sony. Co-directors Andrew and Joe Erwin are clearly working with a budget beyond what they’re used to, and shoot almost every scene on roving steadicams, just because they can. The humor is very pedestrian, but always played at a level of intense hysteria as if that might somehow add additional laughs. The pacing is all over the place with huge subplots set up only to be abandoned. The movie also has very little sense of urgency despite all the running around and screaming, simply because the drama has such low stakes. (Even the location of the missing baby is revealed almost instantly as if the filmmakers were worried that audiences would be too scared.)

At the center of it all is an amusingly stressed performance by Drew, a competent comedy turn from Heaton (who also produced), and an admittedly fun role for Trace Adkins. However, when the material is this benign, it doesn’t matter if the performances are decent or just played by actors defined by how happy they are to be working at all (Astin). ‘Mom’s Not Out’ is a very dull and uninspired movie. I can’t help but feel sorry for all the moms who will waste a precious night out on this turgid comedy – especially given the fact that despite theoretically offering a story about strong middle-aged women, the men have to come in to save the day in the end.

What’s most peculiar about watching the movie is getting a glimpse into a Christian fantasy world where the worst thing a teen girl wants is to go on a date before age 17, and every dark corner of a city at night is populated by a good Samaritan whose dirty clothes and crazy hair are secretly just his/her way of honoring God. That fantasy world is somewhat charming in its naiveté and I can see the appeal. However, anyone accidentally wandering into the film expecting a genuine bad-night comedy will feel totally lost.

I suppose that, like the endless supply of cheap horror flicks that crowd theaters every year, this is a low-budget movie made for a built-in audience, and is guaranteed to turn a modest profit from the dedicated fan base. Expect more of these, but don’t expect the quality to get any better.

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