Film Review: ‘A Bad Moms Christmas’ Nearly Sabotages Its Own Sloppy Fun

On the surface, a Christmas sequel appears to be the ultimate cash grab. Take an existing, successful property and see what the characters do around the holidays. However, a little snow and Santa Clause can be the ultimate band-aid for unoriginality. In fact, many series, such as “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” has experienced highs during the holiday. Others, like “A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas,” experienced literal highs during their best installment. When “Bad Moms” premiered to low expectations, it rocked the box office and provided a funny and entertaining romp that was better than anyone anticipated. It’s sequel, “A Bad Moms Christmas,” doesn’t reach the highs of the original. However, it adds some new elements that provide quite a bit of fresh juice to the potential franchise.

As Amy (Mila Kunis) points out, Christmas is the most stressful time of year for a mother. All the presents, decorations, and coordination of events leaves little time for mothers to enjoy Christmas. That’s why Amy and her children plan to have a nice quiet Christmas at home with her new boyfriend, Jessie (Jay Hernandez). However, all that changes when Amy’s overcritical mother, Ruth (Christine Baranski) enters the picture with plans for a grand extravaganza, five-hour Russian Nutcracker performances and midnight mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Suffering.

None of the other Moms have it any easier. Kiki (Kristen Bell) struggles enough with her husband and three kids. However, the arrival of her mother, Sandy (Cheryl Hines), gives her another burden to bear. With her husband recently deceased, Sandy wants to be Kiki’s best friend. However, this obliterates any boundaries the two had left. Meanwhile, Carla (Kathryn Hahn), our resident party girl, is thrilled when her vagabond mother, Isis “like the terrorist organization” (Susan Sarandon) comes back to the picture. However, she can’t be sure if Isis is back for good, or just to get more money out of her.

The main new element to the film is the addition of the three Grandmothers. Not only are each fresh foils to their daughters, but the movie wisely gives them lots of time to interact. The characters aren’t given much more beyond the two sentence descriptions in the plot summary. Luckily, the casting directors roped in talented actors who mine even the most tired of situations for laughs. In many ways, they upstage their daughters in almost every respect.

This could not be more true for anyone but Christine Baranski, who makes Ruth a comedic goldmine. With an entrance that involves a breathless barrage of insults and a cacophony of uses of the word “dick,” Baranski announces her presence with gusto. Baranski fine tunes every facial expression and utterance like it was her modern rendition of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” accompanied by a chorus. However, far from one note, Baranski delves into what makes Ruth such a tough and critical personality and delivers one of the most side-splitting and devastatingly painted backstories. The movie would be nearly dead on arrival without her.

Among our original trio, only chronic scene stealer Kathryn Hahn manages to wrangle any scenes away from the older generation. Her best moments come during a meet-cute with stripper Ty (Justin Hartley). They fall in love while she waxes his privates. It’s a deceptively funny scene that relies on Hahn toning down the raunch to find the heart in an absurd scenario. Hahn turns every bit of coal into gold and proves why she needs a movie of her own.

For all the things that “A Bad Moms Christmas” does right, there’s at least one other glaring structural problem that keeps it from being as enjoyable as it should be. The film lurches from one set piece to another with such little rhyme or reason. It feels less like a structured script and more like a series of locations written on post-it notes laid out to seem like a film. Additionally, the movie gives these characters these over-the-top, on-the-nose jokes that frequently fall flat. A shockingly large percentage of the movie involves generic montages of our lead characters getting drunk and running around either the mall, a bar or Sky Zone.

Specifically, Kristen Bell and Cheryl Hines are forced to re-enact the same tired “my Mom is too close” joke over and over again. All the actors are doing their best to elevate what’s given. However, one wonders how enjoyable the film could’ve been if it was well made in any way.

The audience isn’t the only one who knows the film hangs almost solely on the new three Grandmothers. The film spends a good deal of the third act setting up a potential spin-off featuring Baranski, Hines, and Sarandon. Strangely enough, its here the movie finds the life and devilish spunk the rest of the film needed. Here’s hoping we get that third chapter of the three women in Vegas. I can’t wait to see what Christine Baranski thinks of Wayne Newton.

“A Bad Moms Christmas” is distributed by STX Entertainment and is now playing in wide release.

GRADE: (★★½)

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ORIGINAL SCORE | ORIGINAL SONG |
FOREIGN LANGUAGE | DOCUMENTARY FEATURE |