Mother’s Day (2016)

Celebrate the one day that connects us all

There comes a time in every mom’s life when she’s forced to attend some kind of school play or recital in order to support her kids. Stepping into the event, it’s pretty clear that the quality of the production ain’t gonna be first rate (trust me, I work at a school, I would know). With that said, a good mother will simply sit back, take in the atmosphere and just appreciate what’s going on. This folks, is exactly how I felt while watching the latest Garry Marshall rom-com Mother’s Day, the third picture in Marshall’s unofficial holiday-themed trilogy. And you know what, I actually enjoyed myself too (even though I know I shouldn’t have), perhaps just like that mommy attending her child’s performance.

'My husband promised me a 2 carat ring ...'
‘My husband promised me a 2 carat ring …’

In the spirit of 2010’s Valentine’s Day (which featured hotties Jessica Alba, Anne Hathaway and Taylor Swift) and 2011’s New Years Eve (which saw Robert De Niro, Katherine Heigl and Jon Bon Jovi vie for screen time) Mother’s Day sees Marshall (once again) employ the classic multi-character narrative that Love Actually popularized back in 2003. This time however, Marshall — who’s best known for helming the 1990 hit Pretty Woman — (supposedly) looks at the mother of all holidays, Mother’s Day, through a number of schmaltzy interwoven storylines (set in Atlanta, Georgia) that explore a variety of different moms — expectant moms, single moms, step-moms, estranged moms, long-lost moms and even gay moms.

Anchoring the picture is MYLF Sandy (Jennifer Aniston), a divorcee who’s retained a solid relationship with her ex-hubby Henry (Timothy Olyphant). The peace however, is threatened when Henry unexpectedly marries sexpot Tina (Shay Mitchell), a twentysomething babe who begins to contend with Sandy in becoming an important part of her two son’s lives. Sandy happens to be friends with Jesse (Kate Hudson), a hot momma who’s moved far away from her white trash folks, (Margo Martindale and Robert Pine), in order to keep her marriage to Indian doctor Russell (Aasif Mandvi), and their son Tanner (Ayden Bivek), a secret. Likewise, Jesse’s sister Gabi (Sarah Chalke) — who lives next door — is also hiding things from her disapproving parents, chiefly her lesbian partner Max (Cameron Esposito); the pair parenting a son together, too. Jesse also knows Kristin (Britt Robertson), a young mom who’s afraid of tying the knot with her long-time stand-up comedian beau Zack (Jack Whitehall) due to some abandonment issues that stem from being adopted as a child. Bradley (Jason Sudeikis) is a struggling single father who’s finding it difficult to cope with the loss of his wife Dana (Jennifer Garner) (who was part of the Marines), whilst attempting to raise his two daughters, Rachel (Jessi Case) and Vicky (Ella Anderson), with authority. And tying everything together is Miranda (Julia Roberts), a celebrity author and host of a home shopping program with no real family of her own due to her lofty career ambitions.

Pretty (Old) Woman
Pretty (Old) Woman

Written by Anya Kochoff Romano, Monster-in-Law (2005), along with actors-turned-writers Matt Walker and Tom Hines, Mother’s Day fails to exhibit any legitimate insights into the trials and tribulations of real-life motherhood. Instead viewers are subjected to a handful of privileged folk who are wrestling with a bunch of contrived yet trivial domestic matters — all of which are tidily resolved by the film’s clichéd conclusion. Audiences are also bombarded with a barrage synthetic silliness and lame jokes — there’s an embarrassing gag that sees Sudeikis’ Bradley become uncomfortable when the tampons he’s buying for his teenage daughter require a price check, while a bit that centers on a giant uterus float (that the lesbian couple build for an upcoming Mother’s Day parade) simply feels off. Elsewhere, Jesse’s entire section comes across as overly sitcom-y, particularly the extreme lengths in which she goes to hide her marriage from her trailer trash parents. Last but not least, a segment that sees a comic win a stand-up competition without telling a single joke is just plain insulting. Why did I enjoy this again?

Well, credit goes to the cast. Less cluttered than both Valentine’s Day and New Year Eve this ensemble genuinely seem as though they’re happy to be on board. Rom-com veterans Jennifer Aniston, We’re the Millers (2013), and Kate Hudson, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003), bring energy to their affable characters, elevating the material with their fiery liveliness while Britt Robertson, The First Time (2012), whom I adore, can do no wrong, even if she has nothing exciting to do. Jason Sudeikis, Sleeping with Other People (2015), hams it up as the clueless dad Bradley whereas Julia Roberts, Notting Hill (1999), does the best she can with her minimal screen time as the high-powered shopping mogul Miranda. Hector Elizondo (who’s appeared in far too many Garry Marshall films to list) makes the obligatory appearance, this time playing Lance Wallace, Miranda’s agent and confidante. And oh, look out for seasoned funnyman Larry Miller, 10 Things I Hate About You (1999), who has a brief cameo as a bedazzled motorcycle cop.

'Thank God it's Friday. Oh wait. I'm a mom.'
‘Thank God it’s Friday. Oh wait. I’m a mom.’

Squeaky clean and non-progressive, Mother’s Day doesn’t deviate too far from Marshall’s already established holiday-themed formula, in spite of this, the flick still works as a fun escapist cinematic treat — I can liken the experience to eating McDonald’s, as in, we know it’s bad for us yet we eat it anyway. Forced sentimentality and stupidity aside, Mother’s Day gets by thanks to its sparkling array of stars, who manage to elevate some of the corniest material I’ve seen all year. Sure, Mother’s Day is far from perfect but given its widespread critical slamming one would assume that Marshall was feeding us some sort of hate propaganda. Gees people, calm down!

3 / 5 – Good

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

Mother’s Day is released through Studio Canal Australia