Monday, November 6, 2017

MOVIE REVIEW/A Bad Moms Christmas
Balls To The Wall, With Stripper Santas For Christmas

Kristin Bell as Kiki, Mila Kunis as Amy and Kathryn Hahn as Carla in "A Bad Moms Christmas", a comedy written and directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore. 

Omar P.L. Moore/        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW                                           
Monday, November 6, 2017

Jingle bells, phallic smells, daughters want their way, oh what fun it is to see their mothers have a say, oh...

That, in a surface nutshell, is Jon Lucas and Scott Moore's funny "A Bad Moms Christmas", which occasionally succeeds as a laugh-out loud caper.  Yet for an R-rated comedy it is surprisingly restrained in its raunchiness. 

A trio of women alleviate the stress of Christmas shopping for their kids but their lovable mothers shatter boundaries, especially Cheryl Hines, as Sandy, the kind of mom in those creepy Old Spice television commercials.  Sandy clings to Kiki (Kristin Bell) like velcro and it's incestuously uncomfortable.  "Do you like my Kiki pajamas?", Sandy asks with doe-eyed anticipation.  The pajamas have Kiki's face all over them.

There's deadbeat gambler Isis "as in the terrorist organization" says Susan Sarandon's character.  Isis mothers Carla (a great Kathryn Hahn) who doesn't love bikini waxing.  Carla is a wealthy waxer -- she lends Isis $15,000 but neglects her own son at Christmas.  Carla has a big heart for laughs and unbridled indulgence.  Beware: If male strippers are nearby Carla will mama-said-knock-you-out to get to the front of the line for a grind-up.

Essentially "A Bad Moms Christmas" is about motherhood across generations.  The mothers love each other as women but detest each other as mothers.  The older mothers police while the younger mothers restrain.  There's a gentle difference between the two methods though the antics here make these subtleties chasmic.  The men in this movie (for once) are largely on the periphery except Hank (Peter Gallagher), who delivers the "savior" insight all the film's women somehow miss. 

It's more than a tad cynical (and disingenuous) to accomodate and mock the neuroticism of some women in "Christmas" only to bring the doltish man off the cinematic bench as the film's emotional game-winner.  Sounds like a surefire scene-stealer -- but for all the wrong reasons.  (The same and worse happened this summer in "Home Again", where the younger homeless men somehow had all the answers for Reese Witherspoon's substantially more seasoned character.)

Despite its sparkling Christmas lights a worn, musty sadness and excess permeates "A Bad Moms Christmas" to the point of near-exhaustion.  The presence of presents upon presents is overwhelming.  The chopped-down fir trees depress.  The Windy City air should be clear, cool and crisp but looks dank, faded and stale.  Carolers are only barely smiling.  Everyone looks jaded.  Christmas.  Yawn.  Ruth is a miserable wealthy perfectionist mother (an excellent Christine Baranski) who pushes exasperated daughter Amy (Mila Kunis) to the edge of World War Three.  Sandy is joyless.  The kids pout.  Hey kids, it's Christmas!  CHRISTMAS!  Hello??

Ruth isn't competing with Amy.  She's competing with Amy's motherhood.  It's all vaginal face-off and pissing contest without the crudeness.  Ruth cares but "destroys" Amy with love.  Ruth spoils Amy's doting children something rotten, only amplifying Amy's long-simmering resentment of her mother.  Ms. Baranski presents Ruth's meddlings with exactitude.  For better or worse the super-critical Ruth is a test for Amy, a threshold of sanity, composure and skills acquired as a parent.  Amy struggles to parent both her kids and Ruth.  Here Ms. Baranski revels in playing a tough-love demi-Cruella De Vil, and puts adoration into an icy character whose heart is deep with love.  You can't help but root for her.

One thing I also can't help but see: there's a mosh-pit mentality to "A Bad Moms Christmas".  (One scene even pin-points this.)  It's all mobs, multitudes and throngs that invade and obstruct the film and by extension the heart that tenders real love not iTunes gift cards.  Claustrophobia engulfs all of the women.  Damn it, none of them can enjoy an intimate moment.  No privacy allowed. 

Kids remind their mothers they make too much noise in the bedroom.  Kiki can't even have sex with her husband without intrusions.  There's an exhibitionist episode at the Christmas dinner table.  Every move of these women is exposed.  Men are conspicuous by their absence but all over the creation of this film.  It feels like someone (male?) is spying or peeping at these women.  The film's most heartfelt moments involving the women are come-to-Jesus moments in a packed church.  Lord have mercy, help me!

Also with: Jay Hernandez, Justin Hartley, Lyle Brocato, Oona Laurence, Emjay Anthony, Wanda Sykes.

"A Bad Moms Christmas" is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for crude sexual content and language throughout, and some drug use.  The film's running time is one hour and 39 minutes.

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