By Kim Hughes
It’s hard to overstate just how awful — really, truly, unabashedly dreadful — A Bad Moms Christmas is, or to exaggerate the many levels on which it disappoints. Goodwill fostered by the endearing original squandered? Check. Superb cast utterly wasted? Yup. Novel concept swapped for something unspeakably lazy? Indeed. Sex and the City 2 can go ahead and pass along that tarnished and bent Worst Sequel Ever™ tiara. A Bad Moms Christmas is one of the worst things I’ve ever seen.
Part of the bitter let-down stems from the flat-out fun of the first film, and the earnest hilarity of its script. Somehow, the vulgarity of Bad Moms came off as titillating rather than offensive, the square-peg aspect of its characters charming. Here, the namesake moms are little more than crass caricatures spouting profanity while wincing; notions of empowerment and filial love replaced with stale jokes and dogeared B-movie tropes.
If you’ve seen the trailer, you know the plot: our former heroines, the forever-beleaguered Amy, Kiki, and Carla (Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Kathryn Hahn) are facing down Christmas with all its stresses and demands. But instead of summoning their heretofore fierce spirit, the women buckle. And then — surprise! — their own kooky mothers show up just in time to dial up the pressure.
Cue cookie-cutter characters: there’s the quintessential demanding mom (Christine Baranski), the clingy mom (Cheryl Hines), and the recklessly self-absorbed mom (Susan Sarandon), all seen elsewhere and in far better form (in Terms of Endearment, The Guilt Trip, and Ricki and the Flash to name three off the top of my head). A plot where moms faced off against daughters might have added zest. Even a mismatch of daughters and moms might have amped things up, but you know going in that pot-smoking, gambling mom (played by Sarandon) is linked to sassy Carla, and that aw-shucks treacly mom (Hines) reared straight-laced Kiki.
No surprises, no twists… not even a feeble attempt to make any of this nonsense stick. Indeed, some plot points are so preposterous that the filmmakers don’t even bother trying to explain them away, like the fact that all three mothers coincidentally show up on their respective daughters’ doorsteps. Or that Carla’s druggy, deadbeat mom (named Isis in case her hitchhiking and thieving didn’t clearly distinguish her as badass) lands a job supervising children. On Christmas Eve.
There isn’t an authentic or original — or truly funny — moment in A Bad Moms Christmas. A copycat scene from the previous film (where the moms of the title get drunk and, sigh, run amok in a retail setting) seems intended to let people know they are in the right theatre. Surely, this mess bears no relationship to the hit of last year?
Even those not arriving full of expectation will be hard-pressed to extract mirth. Writer/directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore have completely lost the plot; for proof, stick around to watch the cast dancing during the credits. If it reminds you of anything, smart money says it’s a JibJab e-card. Not even the throwaway scenes have a scrap of ingenuity.
A Bad Moms Christmas, Written and directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore. Starring Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines, and Susan Sarandon. Opens wide November 1.