It seems there’s no stopping Garry Marshall’s terrifying cinematic rampage on our nation’s treasured holidays. Having ruined Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve with his star-packed omnibus projects, the director has burned his way through the calendar, landing on Mother’s Day as his next victim.
This time around, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Jason Sudeikis, Britt Robertson, Margo Martindale, Timothy Olyphant, Aasif Mandvi, Sarah Chalke and Shay Mitchell, among others, are subjected to the interconnected, fake heartwarming holiday-themed story. It claims to be a tribute to the idea of maternal love, but it’s not even heartwarming or about mothers so much.
Sure, most of the characters are parents, but it’s only nominally about motherhood. “Mother’s Day” is far more concerned with exploring the ideas of marriage, careers, single dads, the military, prejudice, jealousy, grief and clown wisdom than it is about motherhood. There are a few tossed off lines about the irreplaceability of a mother’s love, but nothing feels sincere.
The script is credited to no less than four people, and is a shoddy mishmash of product placement for a bizarre selection of brands, from Morton’s Salt to Cadillac; there’s blatantly spoken exposition and personal psychoanalysis, terribly edited bits of dialogue stuffed in to make everything more painfully obvious — “I have abandonment issues,” a character needlessly explains.
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For the humor, “Mother’s Day” relies on a hearty dose of generational and gender panic. The characters panic about tampons, social media, texting, teen dating and the wearing of shorts. Not to mention the fit about gay people and Indians that the parents of Jessie (Kate Hudson) and Gabby (Sarah Chalke) throw when they find out that their daughters are married to an Indian man and a woman, respectively. The racist and homophobic comments they make (ever think you’d hear “towelhead” in a family comedy? There’s a first time for everything) are rightfully called out as offensive, but their depiction as intolerant, domestic beer-swilling trailer trash just might be more offensive to Texans.
In the film, the actual holiday of Mother’s Day ends up being a pretty terrible day for all involved, including two ER trips and a runaway RV chase. The day is OK for two of the characters, who possibly get married, but it’s impossible to tell because there is no logic to the space and time of this film. Someone takes an Uber from Las Vegas to Atlanta in seemingly a matter of minutes.
We are also granted one of the most surreal moments of recent cinema when single dad Bradley (Jason Sudeikis) wildly overcorrects his initial lack of enthusiasm for the holiday due to his wife’s death. Stuffing the house full of flowers and balloons (“He must have used his veteran’s discount at Pro Flowers,” pal Kimberly dutifully intones), he gives his teen girls a car and a karaoke machine, with which he performs a rousing rendition of the classic hip-hop tune “The Humpty Dance.” He dances with his teenage daughters. While singing “The Humpty Dance.” At a Mother’s Day party.
“Mother’s Day” is a total mess, but what’s truly offensive is that they didn’t even try to make this cynical, post-Sunday brunch cash grab even remotely watchable. Your mom deserves so much better this Mother’s Day. Go see “The Meddler” instead.
☆ out of 4
Cast: Julia Roberts, Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Jason Sudeikis, Britt Robertson, Margo Martindale, Timothy Olyphant, Aasif Mandvi, Sarah Chalke, Shay Mitchell.
Director: Garry Marshall.
Running time: 1:58.
Rated: PG-13, for language and some suggestive material.