Bad Moms 2 (2017)
Doing the holidays like a mother.
Surprisingly, this ho-ho-holiday season sees the release of two Yuletide comedies, each centering on screwy moms and dads who are visited by their oddball/ intrusive folks for Christmas — Bad Moms 2 and Daddy’s Home 2 — one picture clearly targeted towards women, and the other, men and families. Keeping with etiquette, it’s ladies first.
Bad Moms 2, or A Bad Moms Christmas (depending on which part of the world you reside), sees our favorite trio of over-worked, under-appreciated mothers — Amy (Mila Kunis), Kiki (Kristen Bell), and Carla (Kathryn Hahn) — who, in 2016’s Bad Moms stuck it to the man, try to reclaim Christmas, Kunis’ strained ‘n’ drained Amy plaintively reminiscing with her over-committed gal pals, ‘remember when the holidays were actually fun?’ this remark prompting the rebel mommies to take back the Most Wonderful Time of the Year; and it’s jovial R-rated shenanigans from thereon in, with our loose ladies getting drunk in a shopping mall food court then dirty dancing with a department store Santa, all before running rampant whilst purchasing (or pilfering) trees and presents. And if the everyday pressures of the festive season weren’t already enough — the burnt-out women feeling like ‘giant stress balls’ cooking, wrapping, cleaning and decorating all December long — the arrival of each of their over-bearing mothers was surely going to push them over the edge, the flick pitting two generations of bad mothers against one another.
First up we have Amy’s stern mother Ruth (Christine Baranski), a proud perfectionist who sees the joyful season as a sort of spirited sport, the matriarch and her husband, Hank (Peter Gallagher), leaving sunny Palm Beach to be with their daughter and grandkids (Oona Laurence and Emjay Anthony reprising their roles as Jane and Dylan) in snowy Chicago for the holidays; then there’s Kiki’s clingy mom Sandy (played by Cheryl Hines, who shares an uncanny likeness with her on-screen offspring), who kinda pops up unannounced, Sandy a smothering widow who hasn’t been able to maintain a healthy boundary with her ‘little girl;’ finally there’s Carla’s mother Isis (Susan Sarandon), a boot-wearing cowgirl stoner who’s randomly stopped over to see her kid for Christmastide, the carefree tripper pretty much explaining why Carla is, well, the way that she it, Sarandon’s free-bird proof that the apple (sometimes) doesn’t fall too far from the tree.
With returning co-writer-director duo Jon Lucas and Scott Moore shifting the action to the jolly winter solstice, Bad Moms 2 is wilder and wittier than its predecessor, the highly stressful Silly Season ripe with fodder for situational comedy, because, really, Christmas is a tough enough time for anybody, especially those hampered by complicated/ dysfunctional familial relationships, our bickering mothers and daughters constantly at one another’s throats. It helps that scribes Lucas and Moore are no strangers to penning Christmas-themed romps — think last year’s Office Christmas Party (2016) or Reese Witherspoon’s Four Holidays (2008) — moviemakers concocting a plethora of combustible scenarios and risqué laugh-out-loud set-pieces that’ll no doubt have audiences’ bells jingling, the flick’s hit-to-miss joke ratio rather high, too — there’s a ridicules ball waxing gag, an amusing door-to-door caroling sequence that features a fun cameo by Christina Applegate’s Gwendolyn (Amy’s ex-rival), and an amusing on-going Kenny G quip that peaks with a hilarious appearance by the smooth saxophonist himself.
Honestly, it’s kinda hard to believe that we’re already watching a Bad Moms 2, given that it’s only been about 15 months since the debut of the original picture! Taking this into account, it was always likely that Bad Moms 2 was going to feel like a cheap cash-grab, but, thankfully, Lucas and Moore have added enough newness to the mix (characters and its seasonal setting), the narrative an organic progression of the events that transpired in the previous installment. A year has passed since we last saw our moms-gone-wild and Amy’s new man Jessie (Jay Hernandez) has ‘officially’ joined the now blended Mitchell family, even if his mother-in-law fails to acknowledge his existence, or even remember his name, while Carla’s gig as a waxer at the fictitious Okole Spa lands her a date with hunky Ty Swindel (Justin Hartley), a steamy fire-fighter who’s moonlighting as an exotic Xmas dancer, the scenes in which Carla’s mommy fondles ‘Santa Clause’ (the former Smallville star bringing new meaning to the term foot-long) some of the movies most uproarious.
Our three French hens — Mila Kunis, Ted (2012), Kristen Bell, CHIPS (2017), and Kathryn Hahn, We’re the Millers (2013), who, once again, curses up a storm — manage to balance both the comedy and drama, given that Bad Moms 2 is brimming with clichéd feel-good messages and schmaltzy mother-daughter moments. With that said, the ladies are even funnier in this second go-around, the yummy mommies obviously more confident with physical comedy and goofy humor — a scene at Sky Zone Trampoline Park really gives the gals a chance to play silly, chiefly during a dodgeball challenge that escalates quickly.
While our three leads share boisterous chemistry and genuine rapport, their mama counterparts make for believable patriarchs, seeing as they’re just as flawed and kooky as the women they’ve raised. Christine Baranski, How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000), steals the show as control-freak Ruth — it’s hard to see how Amy grew up to be so chill considering her mother is such a stickler — the former Good Wife (2009) star ensuring that the character’s pompousness doesn’t undermine her hidden softer side, the Tony-winning actress delivering all of her lines with sheer stoic delight. Sure, Susan Sarandon, Thelma & Louise (1991), and Cheryl Hines, from television’s Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000), are both given moments to shine, but out of the Golden Girls, Baranski leaves the heartiest impression. Oh, and then there’s Wanda Sykes, Snatched (2017), who reprises her bit-part role as frisky therapist Dr. Karl.
Visually, Bad Moms 2 is a winter wonderland — to think, the film was actually shot during summer! Getting into the festivities, production designer Marcia Hinds — who worked on the prior Bad Moms outing — decks the halls with striking Christmas-centric spangle; there’s fairy lights, wreaths, baubles and stockings, each Christmas Tree (yes, there’s even a Lady Foot Locker tree adorned with women’s shoes) loaded with beautifully wrapped gifts. You want mistletoe, well, there’s camel toe, that’s for sure, or at least a camel — yep, an actual camel (credited as Noel). Heck, at one point, Amy’s front yard is transformed into a Twelve Days of Christmas spectacle (complete with real turtle doves and mechanically rigged figurines), the interior of the house later fitted with sparkling champagne fountains and ice sculptures, Ruth, illuminating the venue with cool glistening blues, throwing an elaborate frozen-themed Christmas Eve jamboree, one with a sushi chef who prepares canapés served to guests by tuxedo-clad waiters — talk about trimmings from tip to toe! Likewise, the soundtrack features an assortment of iconic Christmastime tunes and poppy commercial tracks, the music exactly what viewers have come to expect from these types of cushiony entertainers.
Tackling motherhood (and parenting in general), along with light themes of attachment and neglect, Bad Moms 2 manages to keep the mood breezy and jocular, Lucas and Moore ensuring that their follow-up spreads enough raunchy festive cheer — after all, this is, first and foremost, a comedy! Managing to avoid the sequel-itis virus that’s currently sweeping Hollywood, Bad Moms 2 gives moviegoers a double dose of misbehaving mommies, this Chrissie-centered cracker a fancily-packaged sweetener for mothers, daughters, grandmothers and, yes, even stepmothers to enjoy, the mischief-making a bit more merry this second time round. At the very least, these naughty moms might save Santa a trip!
3.5 / 5 – Great
Reviewed by S-Littner