Mother's Day (2016)

Posted by Joel Copling on May 3, 2016

The idea of an ensemble comedy/drama set on a federally or nationally recognized holiday isn't a bad one, but director Garry Marshall, who has now made three, seems to be trying his hardest to make us think it probably is a very bad idea, indeed. His first attempt, 2010's infuriatingly vapid "Valentine's Day," is still, by some margin, the least of these endeavors, managing not a single redeeming feature, but the two that have followed, 2011's "New Year's Eve" and now "Mother's Day," have only improved by trying maybe a percentage harder to please. It doesn't work, especially here in an effort so belabored by actors who, with one exception, look distracted and a pair of characters whose racism is passed off as down-home, Southern living, but it's not a total loss.

That's damning faint praise, and if you don't believe me, I'll go in ascending order of the subplots here--from the most offensive to the least grating. It begins with the inclusion of Earl and Flo (Robert Pine and Margo Martindale), the casually racist, obnoxiously homophobic parents of Jesse (Kate Hudson), who has recently gotten back together with a gentleman of Indian descent named Russell (Aasif Mandvi) whom Earl and Flo call a racial epithet (and the regionally incorrect one, I might add) upon meeting him, and Gabi (Sarah Chalke), whose recent marriage to a woman named Max (Cameron Esposito) inspires wails of horror from and an attempt to escape their reunion by Earl and Flo. The film then attempts to apologize for this kind of horrifying social politics multiple times over the course of the film without ever actually addressing the problem to reach the point at which an apology would be considered acceptable.

This admittedly casts a pall over the rest of the movie, which never reaches the depths of this particular subplot (It also, by the by, involves a parade float in the likeness of a woman's uterus, and I've got no jokes to insert here) but not for a lack of trying. There is then the business involving Jesse's friend Sandy (Jennifer Aniston), a recently divorced mother of two boys whose ex-husband Henry (Timothy Olyphant) is basically the human incarnation of pure, unfiltered, selfish evil for his decision to remarry a much younger woman. Meanwhile, Sandy meets Bradley (Jason Sudeikis), a widower just passing the one-year anniversary of his wife's death overseas in the military, and his subplot becomes an extended gag regarding how he, also a veteran, must now contend with a daughter who is becoming a woman.

Those two subplots have, at least, potential somewhere underneath the lazily established character motivations and overcooked dramatics inherent to the screenplay by Anya Kochoff Romano, Matt Walker, and Tom Hines, and the fourth is one that has the excepted performance (It involves Britt Robertson, quite good as a young mother who never knew her own). Julia Roberts also shows up in a limited and limiting supporting role as the host of a televised jewelry exhibit for reasons that must introduce some more predictable drama. None of this (which all, of course, takes place in the days leading up to and on the celebratory date of the title) is as charming as it wants to be because Marshall and his screenwriters insist upon dialing up the cutesy factor. "Mother's Day" ends up being an insult to all of those terrific moms out there. They don't deserve something this shrill.

Film Information

Jennifer Aniston (Sandy), Kate Hudson (Jesse), Jason Sudeikis (Bradley), Britt Robertson (Kristin), Julia Roberts (Miranda), Timothy Olyphant (Henry), Jack Whitehall (Zack), Shay Mitchell (Tina), Margo Martindale (Flo), Sarah Chalke (Gabi), Hector Elizondo (Lance Wallace), Ella Anderson (Vicky), Robert Pine (Earl), Brandon Spink (Peter), Aasif Mandvi (Russell), Cameron Esposito (Max), Jon Lovitz (Wally Burn).

Directed by Gary Marshall and written by Anya Kochoff Romano, Matt Walker, and Tom Hines.

Rated PG-13 (language, suggestive material).

118 minutes.

Released on April 29, 2016.