I've decided to spend the lead-up to Christmas 2020 watching a ton of Christmas movies, as part of a desperate attempt to insert some holiday cheer into this hellscape of a year. To justify this time of my life that I will never get back, I'm going to write all about it so you don't make the same mistakes I made. You're welcome.
All right, let's get this out of the way first: A Bad Moms Christmas is not a new movie. It's from 2017, a simpler time when people all over the world could go to the movies and not die of that.
I know reviewing older movies is not really the done thing but this one is on Netflix and I watched it a couple of days ago and if I write about it, I won't feel so bad about the time I wasted watching it.
I went into it with an open mind. I'm here for any movie, any book, any commercial, any tiny undecipherable scribble on a post-it note that reminds the world of the fact that mums are people too. With so many instances of fictional women in movies and TV shows existing merely as mums whose sole function in the world is to please their husband and children, it's refreshing to hit the brakes on that and get reminds that, well, whaddayaknow, mums are people too.
The movie is a Christmas-themed sequel to Bad Moms, a 2016 comedy about a group of mums who are very different from each other but bond over the fact that, in their own very distinct ways, they are misunderstood and under-appreciated.
For Christmas, they get to host three people who know exactly how they feel (and yet make them feel even worse): their own mums.
The result is a comedy that tries to get into the inter-generational overarching truth that it doesn't matter how much you do, you're never going to be a perfect mum - so the best you can do is just love your kids hard and cross your fingers that they'll turn out okay.
The movie begins in medias res, which is something my professor of Theory of Cinema from back in my uni days would be very proud of me for saying. The good news is that this is the cleverest thing I'll say about it. The rest is the plain old Sunday afternoon comedy cliche your tired brain wants, needs and deserves right now.
On the plus side, it aces the Bechdel test, with all the important characters being female. On the other hand, it's got some very problematic stereotypes of both women and mothers, as well as some pesky fat shaming (of a Santa stripper) that didn't really need to be in there.
Also included: ball waxing, hot Santa strippers and gingerbread penis licking and a fair few f-bombs. Needless to say, this is not a movie for the whole family.
It's also full of cliches - so many cliches - and the characters are mostly caricatures of themselves, without any real depth, with the typical stereotypes of the slutty mum, the preppy mum and the working mum all in there. If you can overlook all that, however, the thing that unites all those very different mums is the fact that they are under-appreciated and they love their children.
Despite the posters and the covers and the trailers and whatnot, the true shining star of this movie is not Mila Kunis (who plays the main mum, Amy). The star is Christina Baranski, who plays Amy's stern and emotionally-distant mum, Ruth. For a character that seems bereft of any emotion, she ends up being the catalyst for some of the only scenes of any emotional value in the whole movie.
She is also responsible for some of the best quotes in the movie (including the one above about how "mums don't enjoy, they give joy").
But the quote that sums it all up the best is delivered by the great Wanda Sykes, who plays a psychologist seeing Kiki and her mum in an odd mother-daughter couples therapy session. When Kiki's mum walks out of the session, Dr Karl enlightens Kiki about why "mums are crazy":
Your mum was probably pretty normal before she had you. But then you were born. And you didn't sleep for six months. So she didn't sleep for six months. And you refused to eat. And when you did eat, you would barf all over her clothes. And that made your mum a little crazy. And then you fell off your bike and broke your arm. And then you got bullied in school and then you started dating that weird dude with the stick through his nose. And all those things? Made your mum a little more crazy. And then you got married and bought a house you can't afford and you raise kids who never say 'please' or 'thank you', ****, they can't even read, and all those things made your mum super duper crazy. And now you come into my office and go 'Dr Karl, why's my mum so crazy?' And this answer is... You, mother******! You made your mum crazy! So be nice to your mum, 'cause you the one who *****d her **** up!
Bad Moms Christmas is nothing if not predictable, which is a good thing because nothing much is these days. The mums and the mums' mums will all end up understanding how much they all do for the ones they love and they're all going to live happily ever after. Of course the moral here is that mums just want what's best for their kids, and the kids of those mums will grow up to be parents who also want the best for their kids and so on and so on until an asteroid finally does the right thing and hits this godforsaken planet once and for all (that bit isn't in the movie but hey, sequel idea, give me a call Mila).
It's no Christmas classic but it's probably not trying to be anyway. Watch on a Saturday evening after the kids have gone to bed - but don't waste your good wine on it, a $9.99 bottle will suffice.