Director: Garry Marshall
Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Julia Roberts, Jason Sudeikis, Britt Robertson, Sarah Chalke, Margo Martindale
Release Date: April 29th, 2016
The new comedy Mother’s Day presents itself as a prepackaged and simplistic tribute to mothers everywhere. It’s the third in a series of director Garry Marshall’s star-studded comedies about holidays. Each of the previous films — Valentine’s Day in 2010 and New Year’s Eve in 2011 — arrived with an A-list cast, online stereotypical conflicts, erectile and multiple plot-lines (often connected to each other) that could be resolved in a matter of scenes. While Valentine’s Day was at least passable, Mother’s Day is a gimmick-laden mess that is cynical in its superficiality.
The different stories are set up quickly in the first few scenes. There’s Sandy (Jennifer Aniston), the divorced mother of two who maintains a happy relationship with her ex (Timothy Olyphant). There’s Jesse (Kate Hudson), Sandy’s friend, who hasn’t spoken to her racist and homophobic mother (Margo Martindale) in years. Then there’s Gabi (Sarah Chalke), Jesse’s sister, who is married to a woman but has been hiding her sexuality from her parents.
Also, there’s Miranda (Julia Roberts), a saleswoman who sells jewelry on the home shopping network who is so successful that seemingly every character in this movie watches her show. Additionally, there’s Kristin (Britt Robertson), a young Mom who can’t seem to commit to her boyfriend of five years, and then there’s Bradley (Jason Sudeikis), a widowed father of two girls, who is still mourning the death of his wife.
These are only the main characters. There are also minor characters here with their own superficial story-lines.
Because of the unfortunate necessity to balance so many story-lines, the script-writing team of Tom Hines, Lily Hollander, Anya Kochoff and Matthew Walker are forced to present problems quickly and then resolve them in a matter of minutes. With so many stories, each one plot thread only has a few minutes to tell its story.
A perfect example of this is Kristin’s story-line. At first, she is presented with her British boyfriend, who clearly wants to commit. She’s sheepish. Then, she confides in her friend Jesse. “I have abandonment issues,” she states adding, “I have no idea who the hell I am.” Then, she takes time off from work to meet her real mother and then moments later, her abandonment issues are seemingly resolved. Poof.
It’s simplistic, it’s contrived and it’s schmaltzy and those three adjectives could describe this whole endeavor.
Add to those issues the fact that some of these characters are so obviously detestable that it’s hard to find humor in their use of ugly stereotypes. Martindale and Robert Pine, who plays her husband Earl, are tasked with slewing racist lines and drinking beer (only American beers, of course). They don’t like the fact that Jesse has married someone who isn’t white. They don’t like the fact that Gabi is a lesbian. They just like stewing in their own bigotry. Of course for a formulaic feature like this, director Marshall has to find some redeeming qualities in them so in the feature’s final act, they start acting like human beings again.
These story-lines only hint at how bad this film is. I didn’t even mention how Sandy spends much of the film talking to herself about how bad her life has become. The film’s only laugh for me derived when Bradley, who runs into her at a hospital, asks if she’s “leaving the psychiatric ward.”
I can understand the appeal of Marshall’s formulaic comedies (who doesn’t like a happy ending?) but this one misses the mark in its grating use of silly, predictable and downright offensive story beats. Mother’s Day could have been something special but instead, it’s just a flimsy and forgettable mess.
Review by: John Hanlon