The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


A Bad Moms Christmas

Bad Moms was a delightful summer sleeper last year. It was not, however, a movie that warranted a sequel. The story – about three harried mothers learning to stop chasing perfection and simply enjoy being parents – was conclusively wrapped up at the end. The only thing for a sequel to do would be to repeat what's already been done. A Bad Moms Christmas is most definitely in repeat mode. This rush-job follow-up, filmed in May for release here at the beginning of November, is intermittently amusing, extremely predictable, and wholly unnecessary.

It's Christmastime and the moms are vowing to “take Christmas back” by letting themselves relax and savor the season, rather than stressing out. That plan is made difficult by the arrival of their own mothers. Amy (Mila Kunis) is frustrated by Ruth (Christine Baranski), whose desire to create a “perfect” holiday is so intense that Norman Rockwell would tell her to tone it down. Kiki (Kristen Bell) can't stand how clingy and intrusive Sandy (Cheryl Hines) is. Carla (Kathryn Hahn) is annoyed that the itinerant Isis (Susan Sarandon) has once again showed up spontaneously, wanting to borrow money. Does the magic of the season cause everyone to figure out how to solve their dilemmas and learn to love each other better? Duh.

Bringing in the moms' moms is clearly a gimmick to freshen things up a bit. Sarandon, Hines, and Baranski are skilled, likeable performers who are a pleasure to watch in just about anything. They do very good work here, even if they're cast to type. (Baranski as a prim-and-proper fussbudget again?) That said, Bad Moms succeeded in large part because of the kooky chemistry worked up by Kunis, Bell, and Hahn. Now the three are separated for most of the movie, with each actress sharing more time with her screen mother than her initial co-stars. A significant portion of the fun is sucked out as a result.

Likely because of how quickly the production was launched, the concept doesn't have nearly enough punch this time around. The jokes are as bawdy as they were in the original, yet rarely as funny. Many of them feel raunchy just for the sake of being raunchy. How many jokes about a male stripper's massive penis or spa worker Carla's irritation at having to wax vaginas can you really laugh at before they become tiresome? The whole “us versus the system” vibe fizzles out in the flood of vulgar gags.

The plot, meanwhile, is slapped together, with an excess of music montages used to pad everything out. Seriously, A Bad Moms Christmas has enough music montages to make Rocky IV jealous. They lead up to an attempt to be heartwarming at the end. Only a complete Scrooge could fail to appreciate an uplifting yuletide message, but one with fewer cliches would have been nice.

The stars do bring some life to the less-than-inspired material, and there are undoubtedly moments where their efforts elicit laughter. Hahn, once again, proves to be the Most Valuable Player, delivering hard-R punchlines with gusto. The actress visibly loves portraying such an unbridled character. A film with substantial roles for six good actresses is also something to celebrate, no matter the circumstances.

A Bad Moms Christmas coasts by to a reasonable degree on the strength of its A-list cast and holiday theme. Nevertheless, the novelty has worn off, and the plot is frustratingly on autopilot. The odds of it becoming a perennial favorite are pretty slim.

( out of four)

A Bad Moms Christmas is rated R for crude sexual content and language throughout, and some drug use. The running time is 1 hour and 44 minutes.

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