I adore Christmas, and had no qualms watching this on November 1st, while eating homemade mince pies.
I used to manage a retail Christmas department, which meant wearing musical antlers blaring our “Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer” from September to February, and I still adored Christmas.
I also make my own mincemeat, bake and ice the Christmas cake, and have a set of gingerbread house cutters. One year I even made my friend a Take That advent calendar.
I’ve almost certainly been put on this earth to make Nigella Lawson and Martha Stewart feel a bit crap.
So I know that Christmas is exhausting for mothers. And according to Amy’s mother Ruth, that’s as it should be: “Moms don’t enjoy, they give joy, that’s how being a mom works”.
All that gift buying, wrapping, food preparation and party planning, knowing that whatever you do someone will find fault – in Amy’s case, her own mom. And all they get in return, as harassed mom of four Kiki points out, is “coupons for back rubs”.
In A Bad Moms Christmas, the three moms from the first film – Amy (Mila Kunis), Kiki (Kristen Bell) and Carla (Kathryn Hahn) – ground down by the crazy demands of the festive season, want to take back Christmas and make it fun again. But it’s not easy when their own moms decide to come to stay.
All the moms’ moms are more extreme versions of their daughters. Amy’s mom Ruth (a terrifying Christine Baranski) is an uber-perfectionist who constantly accuses her daughter of laziness. Always glamorously dressed, she takes over Amy’s happy holidays. Soon there’s a 12 Days Of Christmas tableaux outside with live partridges, and a Christmas Eve party for 180 people Amy doesn’t know to be held at Amy’s house. Aptly, Ruth expects to spend midnight mass at the Church Of Our Mother Of Perpetual Sorrow.
Kiki’s mom Sandy (Cheryl Hines) thinks that she and her daughter should be best friends, has pyjamas with Kiki’s head printed on them and is caught watching her daughter and son-in-law having sex.
Carla’s mum is called Isis, “like the terrorist organisation”, and only turns up to borrow money and maybe steal Carla’s TV. Isis (Susan Sarandon) is a free spirit, and when she turns over a new (probably cannabis-related) leaf and gets a job, admits that “I don’t even know how I passed the drugs test!”.
Like the first film there are some slow motion activities: a visit to Santa which results in twerking in his face; a family trip to the trampoline park (and if this had been written by moms they would’ve included some pelvic floor exercises at this point).
There’s a countdown, and two days before Christmas I’ll admit I was ready to go home and start peeling sprouts. But then the tone lifts (lowers?) with the arrival in Carla’s spa treatment room of stripper Ty Swindle, who needs his balls waxed. Ty is in town for some sexy Santa competitions, and if anyone deserves some sexy Santa-related fun, it’s Carla.
Ty possesses the kind of body most women would love to unwrap, and a penis so large a Christmas stocking would barely cover it. The scene where Carla waxes his bits, ending with him, legs in the air, asking her on a date, and showing his commitment by offering to hold his butt crack open for her, is a joyous display of mutual attraction, and, yes, respect.
Amy’s bust-ups with her mother eventually end in disaster. Her children are holier than thou towards her when all she’s done is fight grandma and pull the expensive decorations down. And those kids aren’t exactly neutral, given that Ruth has been bribing them with pricy tech since her arrival.
Can the moms ensure they and their families get the happy, chilled out Christmas (nearly) everyone wants?
Like the moms’ moms, A Bad Moms Christmas means well. But as in Bad Moms, the moms are anything but bad, even at their worst. And it suffers from a very threadbare script – there simply aren’t enough laughs. Luckily it has a tremendous cast (particularly the grandmas) who really lift the material.
Kathryn Hahn is fabulous as Carla, who is mouthy and funny but also as a single mom doesn’t have anything like the support systems the other moms have. Her Christmas hacks include gifting her son’s belongings back to him, and she’s spending the run-up working her ass off waxing endless vaginas, presumably as otherwise Santa won’t come.
Hahn imbues Carla with not just spark but pathos. She’s carrying the ghosts of miserable Christmases past with her and has had to mother her own mother. This festive season their idea of bonding is recreating a scene from her childhood, as the two of them stand outside an expensive supermarket with a shopping trolley, claiming to be collecting canned goods for charity while stealing shoppers’ recent alcohol purchases.
To be fair to Kunis and Bell, Hahn’s character has way more scope. Amy may get most of the story but her dialogue is the least sparky, and yet again she feels she’s failed as a mother, despite doing no such thing. Kiki is perkier this time, with more autonomy, though still pretty timid.
But Susan Sarandon steals the show. Most of the best lines go to Isis. Arriving at her daughter’s, she gets a warm, if surprised, welcome: “Jackson’s going to shit himself when he sees you!” says Carla. “Still got that kid then?” is Isis’s reply. And later on, as Carla points out that most people do actually care about their children, her mother’s response is an airy “Whatever. I can’t keep up with the latest parenting trends”.
Some details really chime – the terrible homemade tree decoration that looks like poop and is destined to be forever hung on a branch at the very back; the deadly dull theatre trip; the tuneless school recitals; the live camel (ok not the live camel). Although I’ve never drunkenly stolen a fully-dressed Christmas tree from a shoe shop (well I don’t think I have, but if I was drunk, who knows?)
Credit is due for not rehashing the PTA stories from the first film, which would have been easy to do. And A Bad Moms Christmas has a top-notch cast of women, particularly older women (though I wouldn’t call its message feminist).
It’s easy to diss the grans but, of course, they all mean well. And despite their very different personalities, they too enjoy a bonding of sorts. If there’s to be a third film, it really should be Badder Grandmas.