In preparation for Bad Moms Christmas I felt moved to watch this sequel’s predecessor Bad Moms. Comedies of this ilk rarely require homework but it’s been awhile since I’ve embraced this genre with great enthusiasm so I went all in. I’m happy to report that while Bad Moms has its moments, A Bad Moms Christmas has even more of them. Unfortunately, like most sequels, BMC’s need to exist rests squarely on a familiar plot that even the talents of Christine Baranski, Susan Sarandon, and Cheryl Hines can’t justify…well, maybe. Also money.
The plot as stated is simple. Amy (Mila Kunis) has a modest Christmas celebration planned for her family. Then her overcritical mother Ruth (Baranski) shows up and insists on doing Christmas her way with all the bells and whistles including a trip to see the original Nutcracker ballet. The five hour Russian version. Egos collide causing mayhem that only Amy can fix. Kiki (Kristen Bell) and Carla (Katherine Hahn) also have mommy issues of their own to contend with when Sandy (Hines) and Isis (Sarandon) also come to town. While the film does a decent job of balancing all the relationships, it’s Ruth and Amy’s relationship that is the focus.
Despite the repetitiveness of the plot, BMC is funny. In my opinion, the humor works better and more frequently than Bad Moms primarily because of the interactions between the original cast of Kunis, Bell, and Hahn and their respective “moms” played by Baranski, Hines, and Sarandon. The interaction of different generations always garners easy laughs in films but the ease with which biting criticism slips off the tongue of Baranski as she critiques her daughter’s crappy Christmas plans is simply delicious. Hines is sugary sweet dressed in custom clothing decked with Bell’s face, and Sarandon plays aloof badass with vigor. Hahn has the most time to stretch her comedic chops in scenes involving a male stripper and his need of her waxing services south of the border.
What this film and it’s predecessor fail to do it buck the status quo. This franchise wants you to believe that moms don’t have to be perfect to be good at their job, but BMC openly punishes Kunis’ character for destroying Christmas for her family. In the end, it’s up to her to make everything right again. It does evolve as a device for her and Baranski’s character to work together, but the message still hits the importance of mom’s duty to make Christmas and every day in their children’s life as special and memorable as they can. Who’s taking care of mom’s special day? As Ruth states at the very beginning, “mothers don’t receive happiness, they give it.” The line is played for knowing laughs but by the end, BMC splits the difference by inferring that making everyone else happy instills joy in mom’s heart. And maybe it does, what do I know, I don’t have kids.
When I saw this in a theater there were many mom groups in attendance. And boy did they find this movie hilarious. As did I for the most part. So who am I to say it doesn’t give moms what they want if they see the truth in it? There’s validation enough in seeing your experience on screen (albeit a white middle class experience). I just wish it did less reflecting back an image of modern motherhood and more redefining an image of what modern motherhood could be.
A Bad Moms Christmas is now playing in Philly area theaters.
Author: Jill Malcolm
Jill is happiest attending midnight screenings with other crazy film fans at her local theater. Her other passions include reading, traveling to faraway places, cat videos, pugs, and jalapeño peppers. She is co-founder of the blog Filmhash.