Thu, 16 Nov 2017
A Bad Moms Christmas (15)
Running time 1hr 44 min
COMEDY sequels have a bad enough track record; FESTIVE comedy sequels are nearly always bottom-of-the-barrel, avoid-like-the-flu, stale-as-Boxing-Day-turkey fare, particularly when the distributors slate them for release months prior to Yuletide. At its best, 2017’s Bad Moms was good, surprisingly heartfelt fun, but there was plenty in there – the outlandishly niche conceit, its tacky sense of humour, its penchant for mindless vulgarity – that could turn the brand sour. Thankfully, this Noel-themed follow-up has steered largely clear of those rocks, instead playing safe and continuing to mine the leads’
chemistry for nuggets of charm.
Nevertheless, the experience of watching it is liable to evoke a sense of déjà vu, and not because the interplay between Amy (Mila Kunis), Carla (Kathryn Hahn) and Kiki (Kristen Bell) has worn thin (in fact, it remains a generally solid act,
buoying the sequel in tandem with a screenplay every bit as sharp and hilarious as that of its predecessor). Later this month, a sequel to Daddy’s Home will pair up the first movie’s unfortunate twosome with their ‘old men’ (Mel Gibson for Mark Wahlberg, John Lithgaw for Will Ferrell). Suspiciously, the Bad Moms creators appear to be singing from the same hymn sheet, dumping the central squad’s own mothers on them for what promises to be an unforgettable (and unforgettably filthy) Chrimbo. This bolsters the pre-existing mechanic, milked for its full potential in the first film, with a welcome new layer of complexity. Cheryl Hines plays Kiki’s overbearing mum to hilariously uncomfortable effect, but it’s Christine Baranski who takes the cake here as Amy’s ghastly ma, the very epitome of the suburban standoffishness that Bad Moms has always served to lampoon. It must’ve been hard tracking down a comedy talent capable of topping the original’s parade of unbearable
helicopter parents; casting Baranski for this tricky role has proven, if anything, the best imaginable choice – she really knows how to make us cringe and her scenes deliver the biggest belly-laughs. Openly contemptuous of her daughter, obsessed with a horrifically WASP-y carolling competition and never missing an opportunity to shamelessly flaunt her wealth, she’s everything Amy’s not – this critic might even dare suggest that their relationship, rather than that between the three amigas, is by far the funniest thing the movie has to offer.
Nevertheless, it’s predictably flawed. Expanding the first film’s focus to encompass a new set of personalities has sapped the premise of some of its raw appeal; the commentary feels a lot less insightful (and a little less subversive) than it did in Bad Moms. This isn’t helped by the fact that we’ve seen this trick done to death on-screen – tawdry as the prospect might seem, a Bad Dads spinoff could, in hindsight, have done far more to update and expand upon what was already there. If you thought the bad moms of Bad Moms were bad, their mothers are even worse – just be aware that this sequel, lewd and toe-curlingly funny as it can be, is missing a little of its forerunner’s heart. In the end, no amount of booze, sex and camel (?) gags can compensate for that.