Those who have seen 2015's The Big Short may recall Anthony Bourdain explaining collateralized debt obligations by making a stew out of three-day-old seafood. Garry Marshall takes the same approach with his holiday movies: repackaging old, tired product into something he wants you to believe is fresh.Mother's Day is less a bad movie unto itself than a stew of other bad movies thrown together. Just from the trailer, you can name six: Baby Boom (career woman thrust into motherhood), Guess Who (discomfort over interracial romance), The Family Stone (discomfort over lesbian romance), Stepmom (discomfort over ex-spouse's younger new love, also starring Julia Roberts), Raising Helen (unexpected single parenthood, also starring Kate Hudson) and Crossroads (tween seeking long-lost mother). Theoretically, the idea of simply putting a bunch of stock characters in the same scenario and having them work off each other could be funny if you came at it with a sense of irony. But irony and Garry Marshall are two ships passing in the night, as are comedy and Garry Marshall, creativity and Garry Marshall, and modernity and Garry Marshall. Either he doesn't realize that Mother's Day consists only of stock characters, or he doesn't care enough to do anything interesting with them.
"This year, show Mom you care . . . by taking her to a different movie."
I'd tell you to stop me if you've heard this all before, but it's certain you have. Jesse (Hudson) is happily married to Russell (Aasif Mandvi); her sister Gabi (Sarah Chalke) is happily attached to Max (Cameron Esposito), whose only job is to stand around and look mildly insulted; neither has told their parents, Flo and Earl (Margo Martindale and Robert Pine), that Russell and Max are, respectively, Indian and female. This would be less of an issue if Flo and Earl weren't the worst caricatures of the Deep South this side of Honey Boo Boo, which means rampant dishonesty and awful hijinks must ensue. Elsewhere, Jesse's friend Sandy (Jennifer Aniston) is the one dealing with a younger replacement in the form of Tina (Shay Mitchell), the jailbait-looking squeeze of her ex Henry (Timothy Olyphant), to whom Sandy's two sons (Brandon Spink and Caleb Brown) have taken a liking. Plus, she has not one but two meet-cutes with Bradley (Jason Sudeikis), grappling with the loss of his perky Marine wife Dana (Jennifer Garner) and tasked with the care of their daughters, currently blossoming into womanhood (Jessi Case) and just kind of there (Ella Anderson). Meanwhile, Roberts, wearing a now-infamous orange pageboy wig that makes her resemble an overripe acorn squash, plays Miranda, a home shopping goddess (in the age of Amazon? Right) who chose career over motherhood and that's final, dammit. She unexpectedly meets Kristin (Britt Robertson), also Jesse's friend, who refuses to marry longtime boyfriend and baby-daddy Zack (Jake Whitehall) on account of never having known her mother, who turns out to be . . . OLD MAN JENKINS?! No, you know exactly who it is, come on.
That Jesse, Sandy and Miranda's storylines are only nominally connected results in especially odd pacing from Marshall. He could at least have made the tones of all three progress according to the same pattern. Instead, especially in the third act, we veer wildly from melodrama to slapstick to panic to slapstick to heartfelt romance to slapstick. The result comes off as though the editor isolated the best takes well enough but didn't put them in the proper order. This, aspiring filmmakers, is why you never hire your kid brother who knows how to use Movie Maker as your editor.
But if the bad movies from whence these storylines came are the seafood in our metaphorical stew, the script, by four people who shall remain nameless (and hopefully jobless), is the broth. The characters simmer in an unholy consomm√© of contrivances, suburban white privilege, female hysteria, stand-up routines so inoffensive you'd think you were watching a Canadian sitcom, Southern jokes, sassy black fat jokes, lesbian jokes, terrorist jokes, social media jokes, clown jokes, dwarf jokes, and the clunkiest exposition I've ever heard anywhere ("I have abandonment issues!", "Mom loved karaoke!"). This may have been a little more forgivable in the mid-90s; in fact, the only way we can tell this wasn't actually set in the mid-90s is that the token twenty-something mentions Instagram.
At least Marshall had the courtesy to provide us with a few reasonably talented actors; Hudson, Sudeikis and Robertson manage to make their characters seem a little like real humans. But Roberts is as stiff and awkward as her hair, and Aniston comes off merely as Rachel Green, now with two mop-haired sons. The surprise performance of the ensemble belongs to Mitchell, who could not only annihilate Aniston if she were ever seriously considered for a People beauty contest, but is entirely convincing as the naive young stepmother trying to sidestep her predecessor's hostility. Unfortunately, her first major film role is in Mother's Day, so it may well be her last.If not for the obnoxious credit music, in which unrecognizable pop singers shout about how great moms are, it would be a mystery as to what Marshall was hoping to convey with this movie. The whole production comes off as a last-minute gift for his own mother, who will probably grin tightly and pretend she loves it. Thankfully, nobody else is under any such pressure.
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originally posted: 05/01/16 08:56:06