Director: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
Cast: Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Jay Hernandez, Cheryl Hines, Peter Gallagher, Justin Hartley, David Walton, Christine Baranski, Susan Sarandon
Runtime: 1 hr 41 mins
Rating: NC16 (Coarse Language and Sexual References)
Released By: Golden Village Pictures
Opening Day: 2 November 2017
Synopsis: A BAD MOMS CHRISTMAS follows our three under-appreciated and over-burdened women as they rebel against the challenges and expectations of the Super Bowl for moms: Christmas. And if creating a more perfect holiday for their families wasn’t hard enough, they have to do all of that while hosting and entertaining their own mothers. By the end of the journey, our moms will redefine how to make the holidays special for all and discover a closer relationship with their mothers.
No doubt looking to cash in on the surprise success of last year’s summer comedy ‘Bad Moms’, the original’s writer-director team Jon Lucas and Scott Moore have reunited the trio of Mila Kunis, Kirsten Bell and Kathryn Hahn for yet another serving of out-there raunchiness and deeply-felt emotion. And why not? Amidst the recent box-office doldrums for R-rated comedies, ‘Bad Moms’ counted as one of the rare bright spots, not only for crossing the US$100 million benchmark but also for being the first since the Lucas-Moore scripted ‘The Hangover’ to earn a solid ‘A’ CinemaScore. So these ladies are back for this holiday-themed sequel – which, as Kunis’ newly divorced Amy intones at the start of the movie, is the most harried occasion of the year for mothers, who struggle with the presents, the parties and the pressure to give their kids the Best Christmas Ever.
Whereas the first movie pitted these earnest but struggling parents against a cult of sanctimonious momsters, the sequel sets its sights on the complexities of each one of these characters’ relationship with their own mothers when the latter descend on their homes for the holidays. Amy has to confront her control-freak snob of a mother Ruth (Christine Baranski), who upsets her plan to have a mellow Christmas by turning the front yard of her house into a ’12 Days of Christmas’ display and throwing a huge party at her house on Christmas Eve with no less than Kenny G for entertainment. Bell’s chippy Kiki has to contend with her pathologically clingy mother Sandy (Cheryl Hines), who turns up at her place wearing a jacket with her face on it, sneaks into her room to watch her fall asleep at night, and last but not least secretly buys the house next door to be closer to her. On the other hand, Hahn’s potty-mouthed working stiff Carla comes face-to-face with her dope-smoking, free-wheeling and free-loading mother Isis (Susan Sarandon), who has no qualms flirting with her sweet new stripper boyfriend Ty (Justin Hartley).
Because each bad-mom-of-a-bad-mom is different from the other, each set of mother-daughter tensions is largely expressed, negotiated and resolved independent of the other. This also means that Kunis, Bell and Hahn spend a lot more time apart than together compared to the earlier film, which in itself deprives the movie from one of its most fundamental sources of mirth. It’s one thing to have these girls turn to each other for emotional support whenever things at home seem too much to bear, but quite another altogether to have them work against a common enemy. Without that unity of purpose, the joy of seeing these three talented actresses share the screen is limited to their occasional bouts of slo-mo drunken misbehaviour, such as lap-dancing with a mall Santa and stealing a Christmas tree from footwear retailer Lady Foot Locker.
Rather than their combined chemistry, the laughs here come mostly from the scene-stealing Hahn. An impromptu dodgeball game that sees her use her slow-witted teenage son (Cade Cooksey) as a shield is hilarious; ditto her meet-cute with Ty at the spa where she works which sees them exchange conversation about the waxing of intimate male body parts while in the midst of giving him a full Brazilian. Hahn’s scenes with Sarandon are also by far the most interesting among the three mother-daughter duos, the former reacting with a hilarious mix of bewilderment and resignation as she finds her character’s slovenly ways met with an even more severe display of irresponsibility. It is a pity too that there isn’t more of them together, or more of Sarandon for that matter, for they are simply a hoot whether singly or collectively.
Even then, this fast-tracked follow-up isn’t even close to being as funny as its predecessor, nor is it as affecting. You can feel the strain as it piles on the expletives and leans heavily on the sight gags – such as having Kunis wear a prosthetic nose a la Ebenezer Scrooge while going carolling door-to-door (that former nemesis Christina Applegate remarks in a brief cameo looks like a pe**s), or putting Baranski, Sarandon and Hines at a Sky Zone trampoline park trying to one-up each other. You can recognise the attempt to inject heart into the shenanigans, especially in the contrived but nonetheless moving final act that sees each one of the three pairs of mothers and daughters make up in time for Christmas Day. But the material is hardly as inspired, and ultimately compensated by the sheer female comedic talent assembled, including the new trio of mothers’ mothers that could very well belong in a spinoff of their own. It certainly isn’t bad, especially if you’re looking for some undemanding holiday fare, but coming off the wacky exuberance of ‘Bad Moms’, you’re inevitably expecting a lot more underneath the attractive wrapping.
(This fast-tracked holiday-themed sequel cannot escape the fate of diminishing returns, but there is still enough mirth, cheer and heart to leave you in a jolly mood)
Review by Gabriel Chong