I went into “Bad Moms” thinking it was going to be a terrible film. The trailers for the film set it up as a pandering cry to mothers seeking “The Hangover” style debauchery about motherhood. What ended up being was a fun, surprisingly hilarious, well-acted and incredibly sweet film about the pressure that motherhood has to offer. It was a true surprise of the summer of 2016 and I ate my words. It wasn’t perfect, but it was so fun and touching, it didn’t need to be. Obviously, an independent comedy that grosses over $100 million at the box office is due for an eventual sequel, but STX Entertainment wasted NO time on crafting a sequel, pushing within a 17-month period a sequel detailing a mother’s most stressful time of the year through the eyes of our bad moms: Christmas, and they brought guests this time. With success comes the opportunity for growth, and “A Bad Moms Christmas” truly did that in its cast, bringing three major actresses in as some bad grandmoms to the party, but is “A Bad Moms Christmas” as surprising as the charming original?
As a sequel being not as good as its predecessor? That’s as unoriginal of a trope as they come.
Amy Mitchell (Mila Kunis) is enjoying her new life post-letting loose in “Bad Moms.” She loves her new boyfriend, Jesse (Jay Hernandez), who really hits it off with her kids, Jane (Oona Laurence) and Dylan (Emjay Anthony). Her friendships with Carla (Kathryn Hahn) and Kiki (Kristen Bell) are as strong as ever, but these moms have a big stress coming around the corner in the shape of a big Christmas tree. Little do they know that they’re all about to be joined by their even more eclectic mothers. Amy’s mother, Ruth (Christine Baranski) is a snooty, controlling perfectionist who criticizes every move Amy makes. Kiki’s mother, Sandy (Cheryl Hines) is an overly attached helicopter mom seeking to be around Kiki at all times. While Carla’s mother, Isis (Susan Sarandon) is a free-wheeling, often uncaring mother who doesn’t have much to do with Carla. Together, the bad moms must survive Christmas without killing their respective mothers.
“A Bad Moms Christmas” isn’t truly a bad film by any means, it’s just an unfortunately lackluster follow-up to its original film. The biggest issue off the bat with “A Bad Moms Christmas” is that it’s simply too busy. With the inclusion of everyone’s mother and their respective sub-plots, it becomes a lot to shove into a 104 minute film without shafting some storylines in lieu of others. Because of this occasional rushing of the film, the only storyline I felt any real connection to was the one surrounding Amy’s relationship with her mother, while Carla and Kiki’s (especially Kiki’s) sub-plots were shifted to the side very quickly into the film.
One of the best parts about “Bad Moms” was that it was about 70% laughs, 30% message, which really made for a good balance between hilarious and emotional, but “A Bad Moms Christmas” hits about a 50/50 stride on this balance this time around, and it begins to feel like the more pandering film I expected the first film to be, albeit to a much lesser effect. That being said, amidst this, there are still laughs to be had in “A Bad Moms Christmas,” even if the humor isn’t quite as biting and clever this time around.
The performances in “A Bad Moms Christmas” are the shining beacon that keeps this film afloat, even when it’s treading in its more underwhelming moments. Kunis is as game as ever as Amy, making her a really hard character to dislike. Hahn is as funny as ever as Carla, with her performance being one of the few things that transferred over greatly from the original without much lost in translation. Bell, however, seems to have really been shafted this time around as the “boring bad mom.” She isn’t given much comedic heft, or even a major storyline that made Kiki feel terribly important to the film anymore. She was just kinda…there. Of the new grandmoms in the mix, it’s Baranski that really steals the show from everyone. As a classically trained theater actress, her stage presence here is what makes Ruth so wonderfully devilish to watch. She’s bold, out there, theatrical, over-the-top, but also vulnerable, sensitive and surprisingly funny-as-hell, with her and Kunis’ sparring being some of the best parts of the film.
But this over-the-top nature works for a few characters, but “A Bad Moms Christmas” takes the unlikely, but relatable take of the first film and takes it to such a ridiculous level that it loses a lot of its relatability in the process. I never felt the reasons why the moms had to cut loose at any given time, or why the communication between many of the characters had to be as difficult as it was at times. I don’t expect a realistic take on life from a “Bad Moms” film, but without any rooting in any sense of reality, the act of trying to get “A Bad Moms Christmas” to resonate with its target audience seems a bit more futile when characters are stealing whole ass Christmas trees from shopping malls and somehow getting away with it. I hate saying that the lack of realism of a film like this took me out of it at times, but without something to root it all together, its effect is lost.
And that’s why “A Bad Moms Christmas” doesn’t necessarily make me sad, just a bit underwhelmed. My expectations weren’t high by any means, and I’m not overly upset that this sequel isn’t as good as it could’ve been, but with how the original defied the odds in such a way, I simply wished for the sequel to do the same, something I should stop holding my breath for. There are still laughs to be had here, if a good deal less, and the performances are as good as ever, but without a good balance struck between making the audience laugh and making them clutch their hearts, “A Bad Moms Christmas” loses sight of what made the original such a special comedy. It has its moments, and if you were a massive fan of the original, I can’t see you truly disliking this film, as it does still deliver on its promise, but without the surprises in place again, “A Bad Moms Christmas” feels relatively un-festive.
Directed by: Jon Lucas & Scott Moore
Starring: Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Jay Hernandez, Cheryl Hines, Peter Gallagher, Justin Hartley, with Christine Baranski, and Susan Sarandon.
Runtime: 104 minutes
Rating: R for crude sexual content and language throughout, and some drug use.
STXfilms and Huayi Brothers Pictures present, a Suzanne Todd production, a film by Jon Lucas & Scott Moore, “A Bad Moms Christmas”