In A Bad Moms Christmas, the sequel to last year’s outrageous, empowering motherhood comedy, Bad Moms, the overworked mothers try to reclaim Christmas from its perfect trees, perfect lunches and perfect gifts, writes Natalie Stendall.
With its messages about undervalued, unappreciated women trying to do it all, the Bad Moms concept is tailor-made for the Christmas period.
It’s a shame then that A Bad Moms Christmas indulges in lightweight, one-dimensional characters, far-fetched storylines and a moaning, angry breed of comedy that, in spite of its festive setting, is surprisingly joyless.
Mila Kunis’s hardworking mom Amy returns with her friends, the brazen single mom Carla (Kathryn Hahn) and timid Kiki (Kristen Bell) for a relaxed, mellow Christmas of pyjamas and Chinese food.
Their plans are put in jeopardy when their own mothers arrive eagerly anticipating the most wonderful time of the year. Amy’s mom Ruth, played with surly, bossy self-assurance by Christine Baranski, is an outright perfectionist, while Kiki’s clingy mom Sandy (Cheryl Hines) attaches herself to her daughter like a limpet.
The most heartfelt story is reserved for Carla, whose drunken, gambling, absentee mother (Susan Sarandon) turns up looking for cash.
There’s a lot of potential here. As the three moms become the children in the piece, A Bad Moms Christmas could turn the tables, finding comedy in parental mistakes and a new perspective on motherhood. Yet returning writer-directors John Lucas and Scott Moore (The Hangover) can’t seem to find anything new in their stereotypical mother-daughter feuds.
Only when the sequel reaches its climax do the older generation reveal their insecurities about their own parenting.
Instead, A Bad Moms Christmas gives us more slow-mo, alcohol-fuelled rampages and a stream of montages set to provocative pop music. We’ve seen it all before and with so little to work with the supporting performances become hammy and awkward.
Gags about Sandy’s boundary issues fall flat, with the exception of a biting cameo by Wanda Sykes as returning therapist Dr Karl. As Lucas and Moore allow the moms to lose themselves in feuding they forget the parenting messages that made the original movie so relatable.
With the moms reliving the same old montages, the funniest moments in A Bad Moms Christmas arrive when the grandmas are left to themselves.