Directed by Garry Marshall. Starring Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Julia Roberts, Jason Sudeikis, Britt Robertson, Timothy Olyphant, Sarah Chalke, Shay Mitchell, Christine Lakin, Margo Martindale, Jon Lovitz, Jack Whitehall, Grayson Russell, Aasif Mandvi, Ella Anderson, Loni Love, Owen Vaccaro, Hector Elizondo, Brandon Spink, Caleb Brown, Ayden Bivek, Tom Hines, Robert Pine. Written by Matthew Walker, Tom Hines, Lily Hollander, Anya Kochoff.
Here’s a film that isn’t anywhere as near as bad as expected, and yet fairly awful just the same: Mother’s Day, the latest installment in Garry Marshall’s holiday-themed ensemble rom-com trilogy following Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve.
But maybe you genuinely enjoy these kinds of films, or maybe you recognize the formula and shameless manipulation and yet find some kind of ironic appreciation for this kind of thing.
In that case, I can say this: Mother’s Day is entirely watchable, sometimes in spite of itself, and neither appreciably better nor worse than the two films that preceded it.
It doesn’t have quite the same level of sparkle, however: it’s a bit rough and shoddy in appearance, and missing the star power that dominated the earlier movies.
Sure, there’s Julia Roberts, starring here as Miranda, host of a QVC-like channel who seems to have the most popular show on TV. Every locale – be it a home, hospital, or crowded bar – is tuned to watch her hawk mood stone necklaces for Mother’s Day.
But for 90% of the film, Roberts has no active storyline to participate in. Instead, a publicist and manager (played by Hector Elizondo) frets about trying to keep her business in order. The presence of Roberts, Elizondo, and Larry Miller, who shows up briefly as a cop, remind us of a time when Marshall made legitimate films instead of cloying formula schlock.
Then there’s Jennifer Aniston as Sandy, a single mom struggling to raise her two sons while ex Henry (Timothy Olyphant) plays cool-dad and romps around with a new wife half his age and plans family retreats to Paris.
Aniston has the lone meaty role here, with some tangible subtext that, of course, becomes not-so-subtle text plastered across the screen. But had the film been dedicated to her character, Mother’s Day might have something to work with.
Instead, we get characters like Bradley (Jason Sudeikis), a single dad raising two daughters after their mother has passed away. Sudeikis can carry movies like We’re the Millers and Sleeping with Other People, and is slumming mightily here; he has nothing to work with here besides being a caring father with his usual acid tongue (his throwaway one-liners are the closest the movie gets to legitimately being funny).
Then there’s sisters Jesse (Kate Hudson) and Gabi (Sarah Chalke), and their bigoted red state parents (Margo Martindale and Robert Pine), who swing into town for a surprise visit.
But Jesse is – shock, horror – married to an Indian (Aasif Mandvi) and Gabi is – oh boy – a lesbian with a wife of her own (Cameron Esposito, in one of the few bright, understated performances in the movie). Neither have told mom or dad about all this, and the Mother’s Day strings out the scenario as long as humanely possible.
Lastly, we get barwoman Kristin (Britt Robertson) and stand-up comedian Zack (Jack Whitehall), the father of her child. Kristin was adopted and never knew her real mom, and because of this, naturally, has become a commitment-phobe who refuses to marry.
While Sudeikis, Aniston, and (especially) Roberts know they’re slumming and at least seem to be having some fun – look no further than the closing-credit outtakes for confirmation – their co-stars are lost in a sea of gooey sentimentality with no shore in sight; scenes involving Kristin and Zack, in particular, become increasingly difficult to swallow, and the always-likable Martindale is reduced to a depressing butt-of-jokes stereotype in a film that ought to be celebrating her character, regardless of shortcomings.
But Marshall still knows how to put together a film, and as often as Mother’s Day is distasteful or manipulative or over-the-top awful, it’s always watchable. You know what you’re getting into here, and I daresay you get what you deserve.