'A Bad Moms Christmas' Review: Come for the Bad Moms, Stay for the Bad Grandmas
By John Boone
I only just recently saw the original Bad Moms -- it was DVRed at an Airbnb I was staying at and I do love Kathryn Hahn -- which isn't that delayed a viewing, really, as it only came out last summer. But I skipped it at first, because Bad Moms looked...bad, a hard-R comedy about moms who've had it and so rebel by doing whip-its and driving muscle cars and calling each other "bitches,” things men think women would want to do if only society allowed them. (Both Bad Moms and its sequel are written and directed by two dudes, the same dudes behind The Hangover.)
If you never saw Bad Moms either, I'm here to tell you -- as word-of-mouth promised me -- it's...not bad. It's not great -- no no no -- but the cast is: Hahn as Carla, the single mom who has the big hair and all the p*ssy jokes, and whose undeniably male-scripted brashness Hahn manages to sell with believable bravado; Kristen Bell as Kiki, the weirdo stay-at-home mom whom Bell keeps out of aquirkable territory with just enough sweet vulnerability; and Mila Kunis as Amy, the straight man of the three who wants everyone to know that moms are overworked, underappreciated and horny and, by the way, they get pretty sh*tty Christmas presents, too.
That's the gist of A Bad Moms Christmas, which is set in the week leading up to Christmas and rehashes, nearly beat-for-beat, the entire first movie -- except this time, with tinsel! Once again, the movie begins with monologue from Amy, delivered via voiceover, about how moms feel guilty a lot. ("I'm Amy Mitchell, and this year, I ruined Christmas. I literally feel like the worst mom in the world.") Once again, the trio of good moms gets drunk and declares their bad mom mission (to "take back Christmas"). Once again, there are the slo-mo "Moms Gone Wild" sequences set to the beat drop of some EDM song, and on and on through to the climax, where Amy's kids blame everything on her. The only thing that has seemingly changed from the first movie is that Amy's dog...died, maybe? (Where'd the dog go?)
This time around, however, the trio’s main adversaries are not Christina Applegate and the Type-A momsters, but their own bad moms, lead by Christine Baranski as Amy's viciously posh mother, Ruth, who is essentially swapped in for Applegate's Gwendolyn character. Baranski plays Ruth as a mix of Diane Lockhart from The Good Wife and Martha May Whovier, complete with an over-the-top house-decorating sequence straight out of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The other two moms are caricatures of their daughters: Carla's mom, Isis (Susan Sarandon), is a grifting road warrior, a black sheep of moms who only comes around when she needs money, and Kiki's mom, Sandy (Cheryl Hines), is sugary-sweet and demented, inappropriately suffocating in her motherly love. These are some of our best working actresses and, even with what they’re given here, they're still great! Of course!
Because the movie is made of easy laughs -- naked Justin Hartley talking about his taint! A cameo by Wanda Sykes delivered fully in GIF! One of those gags where a kid thinks she heard her parents fighting but they were actually having sex! -- but they are laughs. (Hartley’s nude scene -- he plays a competitive sexy santa -- includes one of the most insane sound effects ever used in cinema.) And in truth, people in my theater were losing their minds like we were at Showtime at the Apollo. But for all of the d*ck jokes and F-bombs and vodka shooters, the Bad Moms movies come with a chaser of saccharine earnestness, a marshmallowy center where these actresses' great chemistry shines. Especially with the younger mom set, the laughter with each other feels so natural at times that it’s almost weird amid the artifice of a movie.
Does A Bad Moms Christmas ultimately feel churned out, a quick turnaround that retreads much of the same ground covered in the first movie to diminishing effect? Sure. That's what happens when a studio makes over $100 million on a movie budgeted at a fraction of that. But it's worth it only to see Baranski, Sarandon and Hines trying to one-up each other in a scene set at a Sky Zone trampoline park. And as long as Bell, Hahn and Kunis keep signing on to pump these out, I’ll watch whatever comes next: A Bad Moms Mother's Day? A Bad Grandmas Girls Trip? It just may be later on, on someone’s DVR. (But I still have no desire to see Bad Dads.)