Considering the fact that STX’s raunchy broad comedy Bad Moms became a surprise summer hit in 2016, it should come as no shock that a sequel would be ordered quickly. Turnaround on the new holiday-themed follow-up, A Bad Mom’s Christmas, was especially fast as STX has it in theaters starting today, just 15 months after the debut of the original.
With director-writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore back in the driver’s seat along with the starring “moms” Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn and Kristen Bell — and with a prime holiday release slot — the pressure is on to replicate their initial success. As I say in my video review above, the results, while wildly over the top in many ways, deliver on the premise that suburban moms can get as down and dirty as the rest of us, something this summer’s hit Girls Trip also proved in its own way. This should be expected here considering Lucas and Moore wrote the original Hangover film, and they find with these ladies the same kind of raunchy opportunities the guys afforded them in that eventual trilogy of hard-R comedies. At the premiere screening I was at Monday night, some of the laughs in this movie were so big that you couldn’t catch all the dialogue. What makes so much of it work, though, is the mixture of some genuine warmth — crucial for this kind of seasonal offering — amidst all the mayhem and gags.
Plot-wise, the creators have come up with a very smart twist by not only bringing back the three bad moms but also their exasperating mothers in the form of three true pros who know their way around a comic line. Beneath all the shenanigans, the moms’ moms provide the real essence of the film as an ongoing conflict between mothers and their daughters. Kunis’ newly divorced Amy, Hahn’s working stiff Carla and Bell’s needy Kiki find their dream plans for a radically toned-down Christmas — in which they aren’t the ones solely responsible for the all the merry-merry — thwarted by the arrival of their mothers. And the newcomers quite frankly steal the show, particularly Christine Baranski as Amy’s mother Ruth, who barges in determined the throw the biggest and most garish Christmas party ever. Baranski is a total hoot in the role as she smothers her grandkids with cool gifts, turns her daughter’s house into a winter wonderland complete with elaborate display of all the objects in the “12 Days of Christmas” song, brings in the Chicago youth choir to accompany them in a caroling adventure and generally takes over.
Then there’s a very funny Cheryl Hines as Kiki’s mom Sandy, who also does unspeakable things, dresses like her daughter and secretly buys the house next door to be closer to the family. Finally there is Carla’s long-adrift mother Isis, yes Isis, a pot-smoking, cowboy hat-wearing salt-of-the-earth self-absorbed free spirit played to the hilt by Susan Sarandon. Each gets their own time to shine, together and apart, and clearly upstage the proceedings, which are all over the place. This is not say that Amy, Carla and Kiki don’t get their own showcases, including a raucous visit to the mall that has them getting drunk, sexually assaulting Santa Claus and stealing the Foot Locker Christmas tree (a great sight gag).
Like I said, it goes way over the top, but I have to confess I laughed — a lot — and that’s obviously the point even if this is not critic’s fodder or meant to be. Subtle this is not, but A Bad Moms Christmas is the perfect tonic to lift your spirits and forget your troubles in these dark times.
The movie is helped enormously by a game cast who know exactly how to sell this material for all its worth. Among the three returning women, Hahn again is a standout, especially in a scene at her spa job where she is called on to do a wax job on a male stripper’s man parts. Carla crushes on that character, wh0 is played by This Is Us star Justin Hartley, showing his comic chops and a lot more. That scene rocked the crowd and, if any was needed, it gives ample proof that this is one Christmas movie not for the whole family. The other male roles are generally in the background, but both Jay Hernandez as Amy’s new boyfriend and Peter Gallagher as Ruth’s patient husband have some nice moments.
But this film definitely belongs to the ladies, and that includes the amusing Wanda Sykes as a therapist dealing with shaky dynamic between Kiki and Sandy. Suzanne Todd once again produces. It’s a good-time movie.
Do you plan to see A Bad Mom’s Christmas? Let us know what you think.