If you are to believe the new Mila Kunis comedy, “A Bad Mom Christmas,” the Yuletide is a time of joy… unless you are a mother. “Moms don’t enjoy,” we’re told, “they give joy. That‘s how being a mom works.”
In 2016’s “Bad Moms” Amy (Mila Kunis) Kiki (Kristen Bell) and Carla (Kathryn Hahn) were a Coffee Klatch of moms fed up with the burden of having to be perfect. Today not much has changed except for the weather. They are all still overworked and underappreciated as the holidays approach. “I feel like a giant stress ball from November to New Years,” says Amy.
On top of providing a memorable Christmas for their families, the original three moms, in the kind of miracle that only happens in Christmas movies, are ambushed by their own mothers, the primly perfect-in-every-way Ruth (Christine Baranski), the overbearing Sandy (Cheryl Hines) and former REO Speedwagon roadie Isis (Susan Sarandon). Each are as welcome as a bad case of Christmas Itch and all three complicate an already complicated season. “Remember when the holidays were actually fun?” asks Amy. “Let’s take Christmas back.”
Only in the era of climate change would it seem appropriate to release the snowbound “A Bad Moms Christmas” the day after Halloween. The first “Bad Moms” movie was a hell raising grrrls-gone-wild romp with plenty of gags but this one falls into the sloppy sentimental trap of many holiday movies.
It’s an hour-and-forty-minutes of dime store psychology—families aren’t perfect but they’re the only family you’ll ever have—that makes “Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever” look like “The Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Skills Workbook: Practical DBT Exercises for Learning Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Emotion Regulation, and Distress Tolerance” by comparison. It wants to warm the cockles of your heart with its tale of mothers and kids but none of it feels authentic. The heart-tugging stuff doesn’t tug because none of it feels authentic and the raunchy humour—the potty mouth kids, endless vaginal waxing jokes, the twerking on Santa and gingerbread cookies shaped like… well, you can guess—feels wedged in. Imagine a Hallmark Movie with male strippers and you get the idea.
It’s not the cast’s fault the script is drier than Aunt Ethel’s Christmas turkey. All of them—particularly Baranski and Hahn—are game but cannot turn this lump of coal into a polished diamond. Kenny G earns points as a willing pop-culture punchline and Baranski should win some sort of special prize for squeezing as many laughs out of this material as she does. Her take on “the most critical human being on the planet”—“When I was nine I made her a Mother’s Day card,” Amy says, “and she returned it with notes.”—is worthy of a much better movie.
“A Bad Mom Christmas” only gets one thing 100% right. “We’re going to watch ‘Love, Actually,’” says Amy. “Dumb movie,” sneers Ruth.