At a certain point, the world needs to come together and ask why Garry Marshall is allowed to continue working. While there was a time when he provided pop culture enemas like ‘Happy Days’ and ‘Pretty Woman’ that distracted millions from the cold inevitability of death, those days have long since passed.
Now all the guy seems capable of doing with his career is choosing a holiday, commissioning a mildly offensive concoction of clichés that he calls a screenplay, cold-calling some celebrities, and creating nonsense unfit for human consumption. Granted, he’s virtually guaranteed an endless life of lazy cable broadcasts of this crap since there’s a built-in excuse to show them once a year, but that’s no reason for making audiences and actors suffer the indignity of being aware of these movies’ existence. ‘Mother’s Day’ is the latest of Marshall’s “Sure, that holiday could be a movie” projects, and god-willing it will be the last. It’s not particularly worse than ‘Valentine’s Day’ or ‘New Year’s Eve’, but it is the most recent of these cinematic open sores, so it feels like a new low.
Somewhere in a nightmarishly bland pocket of suburbia, Marshall has found a few new tedious tales of love and acceptance to set around the Mother’s Day holiday. The movie exists in a world where people apparently spend a week building up to Mother’s Day, rather than sheepishly buying a card when they hear something about it on the radio the day before. Jennifer Aniston plays one of her robotic human simulations. This one is a recently divorced mother of two who has learned that her ex-husband (Timothy Olyphant) got himself a slice of youth (Shay Mitchell) and put a ring on it. Kate Hudson plays a woman who apparently lives in the 19th Century because she’s ignored her parents for years to avoid telling them that she married an Indian man (Aasif Mandvi). Meanwhile, her sister (Sarah Chalke) is terrified to tell the same intensely backwards bigots that she’s a happily married lesbian. Bet you can’t guess who will make an unexpected Mother’s Day visit in an RV? Hint: Don’t be an idiot, you already know.
Now, you might think that would be almost too much drama for audiences to take without their hearts bursting. You’d be wrong, because Julia Roberts is in this movie as well. She plays a shopping channel jewellery maven and ice queen, but her greatest performance is being an actress pretending that she’s not sleepwalking through this garbage pile in order to acknowledge how much of her career she owes to the once moderately-talented Mr. Marshall.
Jason Sudeikis rounds out the main cast as man who struggles with the reality of celebrating his first Mother’s Day with his young daughters since their mother (Jennifer Garner) died in the armed forces. The only thing that could make his life less painful would be if he got in a tampon-related argument with Jennifer Aniston that would undoubtedly lead to them fulfilling the gaping love-shaped holes in their lives.
As if that’s not enough vacuous nonsense, we also get some scenes in which bartender Britt Robertson can’t decide if she should marry her co-worker/comedian/baby-daddy Jack Whitehall because I guess Marshall had a hard time stretching the other sorry excuses for subplots out to two hours.
‘Mother’s Day’ has the soft hue and painfully manipulative emotional pull of a Walmart commercial, but none of the brevity. Characters saunter around a twisted vision of Atlanta in which the entire population of black people is limited to a single wise-and-sassy stereotype, and there are apparently only three or four public locations where everyone in town accidentally bump into each other to fall in love.
The movie doesn’t really have any plot points, just contrivances. It has no characters, just dazed movie stars and impossibly attractive models who say dialogue occasionally. No one seems to have a job except those who are defined exclusively by their professions. Everyone has problems, but nothing that a polite glance from a knowing stranger or smile from a family member can’t heal. This world exists only in the mind of a possibly-senile Garry Marshall, and even he barely seems to be passionate about it anymore.
It’s hard to say who this movie is intended for. Actual mothers deserve better than this, even those so stressed out and overworked that they don’t have the mental energy to focus on any movie that doesn’t play out with the warm predictability of a hug. It can’t possibly be an appropriate date movie for anyone who has to drive home with the guilt of knowing they abandoned their children and paid a babysitter just to feel bored and pandered to at the same time. Even the stars involved couldn’t have received very much undeserved overcompensation for appearing in this thing given that there are too many of them for anyone to get much of a payout.
The whole mess is just a waste of everyone’s time and talents, with the possible exception of Garry Marshall, who was obviously just looking for an excuse to get out of his mansion and make famous people embarrass themselves with more failed slapstick. Although, perhaps ‘Mother’s Day’ is the movie this Hallmark holiday deserves. It’s as cheap, bland, cloyingly sentimental, utterly meaningless, and painfully white as the average greeting card. Thinking that Garry Marshall intended that hidden meaning is giving him and his pitiful excuse for a movie far too much credit, but I need something to justify the fact that I gave up two of the remaining hours of my life sitting in the same room with this garbage.