A Bad Moms Christmas
Updated: Feb 5, 2020
In 2016, the raunchy comedy Bad Moms was released. That movie starred Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell (currently starring on the excellent NBC comedy The Good Place) and Kathryn Hahn (from Amazon’s Transparent) as three women who band together to rebel against the roles they feel forced into as mothers. It was funny at times, but its message became lost as it descended into a battle between them and the group of “perfect moms” who look down on them. It did quite well at the box-office (earning over $113 million domestically) so, inevitably, there is now the holiday themed sequel, A Bad Moms Christmas (95 minutes, plus a few minutes of dancing over the end credits), which contains some of the charm of the original and all of the problems.
Much like the original, the movie follows stressed-out Amy (Kunis), timid Kiki (Bell) and impulsive Carla (Hahn) as they work together to struggle through their family related issues. This time around, the complication is that each of their mothers are staying with them for Christmas. This allows the series to introduce Amy’s perfectionist mother, Ruth (Christine Baranksi from The Good Wife and its spin-off The Good Fight), Kiki’s clingy mom, Sandy (Cheryl Hines, Cheryl from HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm) and Carla’s neglectful mom, Isis (five time Best Actress Oscar nominee (and one time winner) Susan Sarandon).
Kunis and Bell do the best they can, but there is so little to their characters that it makes it difficult for them to be funny. They mainly get to play straight women to their moms. Unfortunately, their moms, Baranksi and Hines, were each given only one character trait. They have their moments, but their shtick gets old well before the movie ends. On the other hand, the reliably fearless Hahn is perfectly matched by Sarandon and, through sheer force of will, they make the material work. Everybody seems to be having fun, but those two are, by far, the most consistently funny aspects of the film. There is a subplot between Carla and a stripper (Justin Hartley of NBC’s This is Us) she meets at her waxing job that could have been cringe inducing, but becomes far funnier than it should be due to the charms of the actors.
The original Bad Moms was released only fifteen months ago so it is no surprise that its sequel feels rushed. Its story and its biggest set-pieces feel like a rehash of its predecessor. The screenplay for the film (which, like the original, was written and directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who also co-wrote The Hangover) plays like a draft. Everybody is a type. All of the characters can be described by one word. What you see is what you get. That becomes boring, even in a comedy. Because the story is so thin, there are at least three montages that do not really advance the main story in any way. It never becomes its own thing. Instead, it plays like a lazy attempt to cash in on the success of the first one.
That is too bad because the concept of the series is a good one and they have a good cast, made even better this time around. A comedy exploring the pressures put on women as caregivers for their children and husbands is welcome. It is a topic not seen onscreen much. However, these films do not actually explore it. Like many comedies, they use their initial idea almost exclusively as a launching pad for the jokes.
That is not inherently a bad thing. Sometimes it pays off with something that is consistently hilarious. Bad Moms was funny about half the time. A Bad Moms Christmas is funny a little less than that. There are a lot of talented people in the cast, so some of the jokes do land. But the rushed script does not give them much to sink their teeth into. I do not know if the short time between films is to blame, but the result is a watchable, very thin, occasionally funny sequel that barely feels like a completed film. Hopefully, they will actually take their time before the equally inevitable third film in the series.
2½ out of 5
Mila Kunis as Amy
Kristen Bell as Kiki
Kathryn Hahn as Carla
Christine Baranski as Ruth
Cheryl Hines as Sandy
Susan Sarandon as Isis
Jay Hernandez as Jessie
Justin Hartley as Ty Swindel
Peter Gallagher as Hank
Written and Directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore