A Bad Moms Christmas: Movie Man Jackson

Tis the season to be jolly—errr, overworked. The threesome of friends in Amy (Mila Kunis), Kiki (Kristen Bell), and Carla (Kathryn Hahn) is up to their limits in stress. Why? It’s Christmas season, which means a lot hustling here and there, cooking, and being responsible for every gift and event. All the ladies want is a relaxed, lowkey time of year with their loved ones.

Those best laid plans go to the wayside when each of their moms come in ahead of schedule to complicate matters even further. There’s Amy’s mother (Christine Baranski), the perfectionist, Kiki’s mother (Cheryl Hines), the suffocator, and Carla’s mother (Susan Sarandon), the deadbeat. To take Christmas back, the three younger mothers need to be the strong women they are and stand up to the ones that birthed them into this world.

It’s easy to see why one wouldn’t necessarily be excited at the prospect of A Bad Moms Christmas, the sequel to last year’s surprise hit Bad Moms. The state of recent affairs as it pertains to mid-to-big budget comedies over the past few years isn’t exactly a laughing matter. And there’s the whole sequel aspect that many movies—especially comedies (looking at you, Dumb and Dumber To, Zoolander 2, and Hot Tub Time Machine 2) —drop the ball on. It’s with surprise, then, that A Bad Moms Christmas is the rare comedy sequel that is on par with and possibly better than the first.

Co-directors and writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore return to direct the mothers finding themselves under immense stress again. Bad Moms rightfully tapped into an audience that was underrepresented in a movie-going audience, and achieved in becoming a sleeper hit. But intentional or not, it did feel a little too narrow on the four-quadrant movie scale. Not so with A Bad Moms Christmas. The broadening of scope to the holiday season generally makes for a more enjoyable time and an easier connection for a wider viewership, as we’ve all been there—mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, grandmas, and grandparents—experiencing the stresses of the St. Nick season. While not for all ages, it’s easy to see this becoming a staple in Christmas rotations and top 10 Christmas movie lists.

A Bad Moms Xmas is kind of dark. Not dark in a dark comedy sense (the vulgarity is doubled this time, for better and for worse), but thematically, tackling parenting issues of negligence, perfection, and attachment and seeing how these pressures can manifest down to the next generation of parents in a family. Some of it is forced, but this does give a little more emotion and depth to the storyline on this go-around. As for more heavy negatives, “Bad Moms 2” shares some of those common ones found in the modern R comedy, namely an over-reliance on montages, being vulgar for vulgar’s sake, and a runtime that runs long in the final act.

But overall, A Bad Moms Christmas delivers more than not on what it’s designed to do: Make an audience laugh. That is somewhat attributed to the returning threesome of Kunis, Bell, and Hahn, clearly having fun to the point where they seem to be legitimately laughing during the back-and-forth between their characters. But, they, along with everyone else, happen to be honestly overshadowed by the “Golden Girl” trio of Cheryl Hines, Susan Sarandon, and Christine Baranski in what happens to be amazing casting. Hines is gloriously twisted from the get-go, and Baranski has moment upon moment of excellent lines and running jokes delivered to stoic perfection. Of the three, Sarandon’s character is the distant third as Hahn’s mom, “Isis,” a little too mean-spirited to earn consistent humor as Hines and Baranski do, but nonetheless, at least she’s not in Tammy.

Whether a product of very disappointing big comedies or low expectations equated to sequel-itis, it comes as a surprise that A Bad Moms Christmas is not only competent but actually worth some real hearty laughs. Joy to the (comedy) world.

B-

Photo credits go to imdb.com, YouTube.com, metacritic.com, and collider.com.

For additional detailed thoughts on films both small and large, games, and the key moments that comprise each, check out ThatMomentIn.com

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Bad Moms: Movie Man Jackson

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The PTA has more power at a school than the superintendent, apparently. Since the age of 20, Amy Mitchell (Mila Kunis) has been a mother. She is the lynchpin of her family—cooking, cleaning, and being a chauffeur in addition to working a demanding part-time job. In other words, she is a good mom, but also underpaid, overworked, and underappreciated.

She’s not the only one. After another overlong PTA meeting led by the prissy Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate), Amy tells her how she really feels. That same night, she meets new friends in Carla (Kathryn Hahn) and Kiki (Kristen Bell), who are in the same overworked and unappreciated boat as she is. Wanting to get away from their maternal responsibilities, the three start doing what they want to do instead of what others expect for them to do. Are they becoming Bad Moms in the process, or just blowing off some much needed steam?

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No one doubts the importance and hard jobs mothers (as well as fathers, but in this case, mothers) have. Each and every single one who takes their maternal job seriously needs to be commended. But, does a comedy about mothers eschewing their responsibilities honestly have a lot of legs for the majority of the viewing public? I tend to think not. Bad Moms might resonate a lot with the specific target audience (mothers), but for everyone else, there may not be all that much here.

The writers of The Hangover Trilogy and 21 and Over team up again to write and direct another comedy. Jon Lucas and Scott Moore take on motherhood, with the message being that no mother is a completely perfect mother, nor should they be. The message is a good one, and does make for a feel good moment near the end. However, it is a message that never finds a sweet spot until the end. Does being a “bad mom” mean getting hammered on weeknights, taking the daughter to play hooky, etc? Sort of looks that way.

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Yours truly probably wouldn’t have minded the incongruous message as much if there were sizable laughs in Bad Moms. Again, while the intended audience may find the premise full of laughs and zippy dialogue (older women in my theater couldn’t stop laughing), yours truly found most of the movie lacking in energy and in big humor. Additionally, it is also aimless in plot until about the second half, in which finally there becomes some goal that Kunis’ character aspires to obtain.

The cast tries, but they’re probably not as well-equipped to handle such writing shortcomings. As the lead, Mila Kunis grounds the film as needed, and not surprising, is the most relatable and realistic character. Her flanking buddies are filled by Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn. Bell’s role is essentially the straightest of the straight woman, while Hahn’s is much more of the wild card, over-the-top variety. Simply put, Hahn’s foul-mouthed, jackhammered character is a character one will either dislike or like; and actually, a large part of the enjoyment of the movie may hang on what side the viewer falls on because she does get a good amount of screentime. Sadly, I fell more on the dislike side.

Taking on the antagonist spot is Applegate, who is the most memorable character as a PTA ice queen. She’s flanked by Jada Pinkett Smith and Annie Mumolo. Comedy doesn’t seem to come naturally to the former, while the latter is playing a dumb henchwoman Nothing needs to be said about the men, who are all dopes, save for Jay Hernandez. There are some unforeseen cameos to be found that add fleeting moments of hilarity.

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Bad Moms carries an overall good message, but scattershot humor at best and nonexistent humor at worst. If only a little more motherly love was applied to its other areas.

D

Photo credits go to etonline.com, highnoblesociety.com, and Today.com

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Afternoon Delight: Movie Man Jackson

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“Does that feel better? To be a pariah?”

Suburban life may appear to be perfect on the outside, but on the inside, it can be more depressing and disturbing than “normal” people problems. In Afternoon Delight, Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) is your average, stay-at-home mother. Her husband Jeff (Josh Radnor) has an amazing and well-paying job, and she contributes to her local preschool that her child attends. But things aren’t perfect. Her life is essentially without direction, and without passion. Sex between the married couple is basically nonexistent, and tepid when it does occur.

One of Rachel’s friends mentions going to a strip club in a effort to spice up her love life. While there, she experiences a life-altering experience by running into a dancer named McKenna (Juno Temple). Seeing this young woman in this situation leaves an indelible mark in Rachel’s mind, and she seeks out McKenna. The two begin a friendship and soon Rachel “adopts” McKenna into her home in hopes of rehabilitating her, and maybe finding something that will revitalize her fading relationship.

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Afternoon Delight made some noise during 2013’s Sundance event, snagging an award for best directing in the U.S. dramatic category, as well as being the number one movie of 2013 according to respected director Quentin Tarantino. With all of this support, I was interested in seeing the prospect of something intriguing. Instead, what I saw was a lack of direction, and a frequent drag.

Immediately prevalent is a lack of definition and verisimilitude in the film’s events and characters. It is hard to accept the fact that after seeing a young woman at a strip club, Rachel is somehow infatuated with her situation, going out of her way to suspend everything in her life to find and open up her home to her…without consulting her husband first. Was a connection established that fast? If so, what makes McKenna the one she is drawn to? Is it attraction? Spur of the moment?  Nothing is given or alluded to as to why Rachel clicks so well and quickly with McKenna. Not everything needs to be spelled out, but taking everything as is with no explanation isn’t the best course of action here.

Furthermore, the struggles between Rachel and her husband are never delved upon. The movie just drops us into the fact that the relationship is on the rocks, with no explanation or allusion as to why, which actually doesn’t look that bad. Everything is seen from Rachel’s point of view, which is way too myopic in my opinion for this type of piece. She is a flawed character, which is fine, but her point of view is somewhat distorted, superior, and even selfish, and yet it is the only view seen. As a result, it is a struggle to get behind her. This predominant viewpoint makes the ending a tough pill to swallow. In a nutshell (slight SPOILER) it basically says that every event that occurs, no matter how negative and destructive to other’s lives, is OK because Rachel has found herself and her desires are satisfied.

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As a whole, Afternoon Delight comes off as overly pretentious and thought-provoking when in essence, the only concrete thing to take away from it is the fact that one should care about their own life before playing savior to another’s. Otherwise, the themes of intimacy and identity have been seen before and done better before. The dialogue is supposed to be poignant and sharp, but achieves none of this. It is surprisingly billed as a comedy, a dark one at that, but nothing is ever amusing.

Kathryn Hahn has a solid following, and has proven to be pretty adept in comedy. This role allows her to be more serious, and though the writing for the role is weak, she is good. Not captivating, but all in all good. Ditto for Juno Temple. Her character is actually the easiest to cheer for, because she is comfortable in her own skin. It is a sexy yet subtle performance, even if the role itself is more of a concept rather than a character, if that makes sense. Jane Lynch only appears a few times as a therapist to Rachel, and her character offers nothing of note whatsoever. Made worse is the fact that her character is involved in what is supposed to be a very powerful moment in the movie, yet the moment ends up as shoehorned, cringe-worthy, and devoid of any emotional heft.

This is an independent film that looks as expected. Directed by Jill Soloway, it carries a minimalist and simplistic style that works as intended. But, there are times in which there is some uncertainty of how Soloway wants to shoot this. It is pretty conventional, with one scene near the film’s climax that looks great, but interspersed in between are scenes in which shots mimic what is seen in a documentary. This style is really out of place and makes the piece not so much raw but just amateurish.

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Perhaps I missed something, but the look at first-world problems and its characters in Afternoon Delight is unrelatable, undefined, and essentially a bore to sit through, even with good lead performances. This afternoon delight isn’t worth looking forward to.

Grade: D- 

Photo credits go to imdb.com, filmschoolrejects.com, and moviepilot.com.

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