Fun Mom Dinner is a flat comedy, only inspired on occasion but bolstered by four solid performances. The actors at the center of the film's action, set on one wild and crazy night in the lives of overworked and overextended parents, are so good in their roles that one wishes director Alethea Jones and screenwriter Julie Rudd had more consideration for the overextension that led them to need a night of crazy antics as a way of letting off steam. As such, the film eventually just becomes a rowdy affair that leads to some odd business involving suspected abduction and a focus on a major subplot that receives no resolution.
Still, these women are fountains of inspired physical comedy and convincing chemistry. Two of the characters feature more prominently than the other two, but they work best as a unit. Separately, there's not much to go on. Katie Aselton plays Emily, whose marriage to Tom (Adam Scott) is on the rocks: She claims they never have fun, while he desires quiet time after long days at work. Toni Collette plays Kate, whose four kids, two of whom are twins, are more comparable to four tornadoes (or three, if one counts the twins as a unit of their own). She retreats into her kids' bed to sleep when they come into mom and dad's room and into the bathtub for the occasional casual drag from a cigarette.
Bridget Everett plays Melanie, an overbearing, one-joke character whom the actress makes immensely likable despite claiming a military past and a late scene in which she threatens the wellbeing of an innocent bartender to find her friend. Melanie's driving force is compassion underneath an abrasive exterior. Molly Shannon plays Jamie, who recently underwent a divorce and has since taken to planning every minute of every day as a way of coping with the loneliness. Neither of these latter characters gets much to do, but Everett and especially Shannon (perhaps the highlight of the central quartet) make the most of it.
The night begins innocently enough, as Melanie and Jamie invite Emily along for a "fun mom dinner," and Emily, in turn, invites Kate, whom she has known since high school. The four eat at a fancy dinner, enjoy some marijuana in the bathroom (a funnier scene than one expects it to be, especially as a girl enters the facilities and has an eccentric request for remaining quiet), and then hit a bar, whose owner (played by Adam Levine) introduces some temptation on the part of Emily. Back home, Tom and Andrew (Rob Huebel), Kate's husband, jointly take care of their respective children, leading to antics of their own.
That particular subplot is completely useless, introducing a kernel of a good idea (Andrew advising Tom about his marriage) and failing to resolve anything, while the diversion with the bar owner introduces nothing more dignified than a bit of false drama for Emily and an across-town chase for the others. The film is good early on as it ingratiates us to these characters, the actresses playing them, and the slowly easing tension involving Kate, who initially can't stand but inevitably warms to the idea of spending time with the other women. One could do worse than Fun Mom Dinner, which easily could have amplified the worst tendencies of these characters' personalities, but it still only reminds us of something much better hiding underneath.
Katie Aselton (Emily), Toni Collette (Kate), Bridget Everett (Melanie), Molly Shannon (Jamie), Adam Scott (Tom), Rob Huebel (Andrew), Adam Levine (Luke), Paul Rust (Barry).
Directed by Alethea Jones and written by Julie Rudd.
Rated R (language throughout, crude sexual material, drug use).
Released in select cities on August 4, 2017.