Halloween is over and that means its holly jolly holiday season as Thanksgiving and Christmas take center stage. Last night I caught one of the first local showings of the first Christmas film in a strangely active holiday season which also happens to be the sequel to one of my favorite comedies from 2016. I’m talking of course about “A Bad Moms Christmas” which takes the trio of overworked mothers from the first film and explores how they deal with the hustle, bustle, and stress of the biggest holiday on the American calendar. Now I’ve been hard on comedies in 2017. There have been very few true gems to enjoy in the genre really. For me “A Bad Moms Christmas” was a welcome breath of fresh air. It made me laugh, it kept me entertained, and it actually gave a bit of the holiday spirit. Does that mean it’s a good movie though? Well let me delve a little further. Here’s my review of “A Bad Moms Christmas”.
“A Bad Moms Christmas” brings back Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Kathryn Hahn as the original trio of moms from the first film, Amy, Kiki and Carla respectively, as they enter the final week of the Christmas season. To add to the normal stress the season brings them as mothers themselves their own moms also pay a visit for the holiday adding to the chaos. Amy’s mother Ruth, played by Christine Baranski, is a pretentious perfectionist, Kiki’s mother Sandy, played by Cheryl Hines, is over-obsessed with her daughter, and Carla’s mother Isis, played by Susan Sarandon, is a gambling drunk and a drifter who usually only shows up to mooch money from her daughter. As the trio tries to balance the pressures of Christmas and dealing with their own mothers they once again decide to be bad moms and take back the holiday for themselves.
In many ways “A Bad Moms Christmas” is pretty formulaic. Like almost every comedy nowadays is borrows for the book of comedy clichés that include the zany hijinks that would get any other person arrested, the mismatched parents/child pairing, and the always present moment of emotional tension to balance out the movie’s lighter tone. The question here, as with every comedy, is does “A Bad Moms Christmas” take these tropes and make them its own and for the most part it does. Despite the fact that I’ve seen literally everything in this movie before, whether it’s the comedy elements or the more holiday themed concepts, “A Bad Moms Christmas” felt fresh and fun and, most importantly, it was actually funny even if it borrowed from the bottom of the barrel to earn many of those chuckles.
For me the major error of the film lies in the tale of two trios. The first trio, the original ladies from “Bad Moms”, continue to be charming and relatable on screen. Kunis, Bell, and Hahn perfectly recapture the hilarity of their characters from 2016 and feel like old friends I missed seeing. Because we already got to know these women it’s easy to jump right in and enjoy their perspectives and appreciate their personalities and all three ladies have amazing chemistry that shows very clearly on screen. For the original three actresses at least they bring everything to the table, from their quirks to their attitudes, that we enjoyed so much from the first movie making this a consistent and likable sequel with a holiday twist.
As for the other trio, the new “bad moms” introduced in the form of the mothers of the original three are not so enjoyable. I mean they’re not horrible, they’re just not as fun to watch. The new moms are played by Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines and Susan Sarandon and honestly are a bit too over the top for me to appreciate. Each represents a true nightmare of a mother, one who is self-important, another who is obsessive and clingy, and the third that is neglectful. The problem is they’re so over the top it’s pretty ridiculous, even for a comedy meant to take things to the extreme. Honestly though they are funny women and they truly capture the quirks of their characters, but they have no chemistry whatsoever with each other and the characters were clearly created for the screen to be the absolute worst case scenario. Unlike the three daughters who are more grounded women, these three are completely out there representations of bad mom cliches that kind of defy the more relatable tone of the younger cast performances. It would have been great to see how these women are reflected in their daughters, but we only get a glimpse of that…except with Susan Sarandon’s Isis. She’s actually pretty close to her daughter in personality. I just found these three women to be unnecessarily extreme in the stereotypes they presented, almost acting as more forced roadblocks than more natural inconveniences to their younger daughters in the film. However, I can say there is at least some passable chemistry between each older mother and their respective daughter so there’s that to the film’s credit.
The best thing I can say about “A Bad Moms Christmas”, and I can’t stress this enough, is that it was actually genuinely funny and from a cynic like myself that’s saying something. From start to finish this movie had me laughing and having a good time. It had just enough comedic charm and awkwardness without going too over the top and it made some genuinely great points using levity and classic holiday tropes as the backdrop. It doesn’t quite top its predecessor, but it’s right on par. If it can make a coldhearted young man like me laugh I’m sure it will work really well with its core audience of younger and older women who can appreciate what it has to say even more than I ever could. It’s also just a fun holiday film if nothing else. “A Bad Moms Christmas” is one of the most original and entertaining holiday movies I’ve seen in years and actually truly pumped me up for the next two months leading to December 25. There’s a lot that works in this film, even if it doesn’t really explore and new ground. It might not be as well laid out as the first film, but I found it to be more fun and relatable for me personally whereas the previous film, as funny as it was, was somewhat of a pandering laugh fest to a specific demographic. If the goal of a sequel is to best the previous installment “A Bad Moms Christmas” doesn’t quite reach that height, but it is as good as the first film was in many ways.
It’s not cinematic gold, but if you’ve got a sense of humor and an appreciation for the holidays “A Bad Moms Christmas” is right for you. It successfully recaptures the charm of the first film and is both a pretty entertaining comedy and a very watchable holiday movie. It’s not going to win over any new fans who didn’t like or appreciate the first “Bad Moms”, but for those who saw the original movie you know what you’re getting and this new entry doesn’t disappoint. As far as comedy’s go “A Bad Moms Christmas” is a solid motion picture in a year filled with massive duds and while it fails to really cash in on its “bad grandmothers” concept its central message about family and the simple joys of the holiday still ring true with great laughs and awkward situations mixed in for some entertaining levity. In a year where comedy films just can’t seem to get it right, “A Bad Moms Christmas” is a much needed and destined to be underrated gem for 2017.