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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Film review: A Bad Mom's Christmas is an exercise in bad film making

Sequel fails to reach the heights of last year's breakout hit

Kathryn Hahn, Mila Kunis and Kristen Bell in A Bad Mom's Christmas
Kathryn Hahn, Mila Kunis and Kristen Bell in A Bad Mom's Christmas

The original Bad Moms movie was the surprise hit of summer 2016. With cinemas full of Avengers, Suicide Squads and X-Men, the low budget, R-rated comedy confounded critics and financial analysts alike by transposing the standard high school clique comedy into the adult world and taking close to Dh7.35 million at the global box office in the process.

The movie didn’t exactly break any new ground, but it was a guilty pleasure that audiences clearly bought into to see what one of John Hughes’ eighties classics would look like 30 years later, with kids, unhelpful husbands and a hefty serving of antics for our heroines thrown into the mix.

It’s no surprise, then, that the producers chose to get a sequel out as soon as they could – the first movie was the first time distributor STX Entertainment had ever handled a film that took more than $100 milion at the US box office. In truth though, they could have maybe waited a little longer and released, well, a better sequel.

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Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn and Kristen Bell all return to reprise their roles as the titular matriarchs, and this time we have double the mother trouble as our protagonists’ own bad moms, played by Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines and Susan Sarandon, all come to town for Christmas. Already the most stressful time of year for your average suburban, middle-class mum without the added challenge of pleasing this set of needy grandmothers.

Amy’s (Kunis) mum (Baranski) is an overbearing perfectionist who is obsessed with outward appearances – a visit to the opera to create the right impression is her idea of a festive treat, even if her grandkids want to go trampolining.

Kiki’s (Hines) mum is a neurotic soul who has become increasingly obsessed with her daughter since she was widowed – she wears sweatshirts and pyjamas adorned with Kiki’s face, copies her daughter’s haircut and buys the house next door.

Sarandon, meanwhile, as Carla’s (Hine) mother only ever enters her daughter’s life when she needs money. We’re talking the lovable, comedic kind of free roller though - think Meryl Streep in Ricki and The Flash or Joanna Lumley in Absolutely Fabulous rather than Ken Loach-style social commentary.

The whole thing is entertaining enough, just, but you have to wonder why Lucas and Moore made a film. What they essentially give us is a series of unrelated “overbearing mother” comedy sketches which would be better suited to a festive TV special than a cinema experience. There are genuinely funny moments. Kiki’s mother feigning cancer to avoid the discussing her own bizarre behaviour hits the spot in a twisted way, and Sarandon never disappoints, even with a script as weak as this, but the misses are just as frequent as the hits. At least with a sketch show the painfully unfunny dodgeball and Santa skits could have been cut for the ad break.

Naturally, proceedings end with a loosely related moral lesson in how we can all be a bit more considerate of each others’ feelings, and how unbreakable the bond between mothers and daughters is, regardless of how “bad” or certifiable the mothers in question may be. Ultimately though, the pink-sequinned Santa hats that were given out at the film’s premiere in Dubai are more likely to be pulled out for a second viewing than this infinitely forgettable film.