If you didn’t know going into seeing A Bad Moms Christmas that this was a sequel scrambled together in double-quick time, you could soon figure it out. It’s a hodgepodge of half-formed characters, erratic narrative pace, and parts of story that just about smash together to make something okay. That it does so is no small achievement, but it’s worth stating from the off that the comedy heights of last year’s Bad Moms are rarely troubled.
The idea this time is that the Bad Moms – Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn – each have their own Bad Moms to put up with. Respectively, they get Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines and Susan Sarandon. Baranski gets to play the overbearing, everything has to be perfect one. Hines is the clingy, living her life through her daughter mother. And Sarandon gets to smoke joints and drink and act like she doesn’t care. To give an idea of how mixed up the film is, Baranski – always brilliant – for no obvious reason breaks character for a five minute sequence edging around the half way point where she joins in the fun, before retreating back to being stuck up again. Why? Good question, and I’m not utterly sure anyone knows the answer. If they do know, they never explain it.
In the midst of all this, returning writers and directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore throw in a Christmas countdown, from the Love Actually school. It’s not an idea they seem to like too much, mind. A card tells us ‘Six Days To Christmas’ right at the start, but it’d be fair to say that some days take a lot longer than others. I think it’s day four that’s blasted through in but a few minutes of screentime, for instance. In the midst of these days, lots happens, including one and a half real estate deals, and the film trades heavily in contrivances and forced drama to make some/lots of the movie work. Furthermore, it barely lays crumbs for the emotional pay-offs come the back end of the story.
The film also has more montages than Rocky IV. I counted six and a half, maybe seven, and still think I might have missed one. Credit to editor James Thomas, who clearly had a lot of fast assembling to do.
And yet, in the midst of what’s clearly a bashed together mess, there’s proof that sometimes, character gets you over the line. For Kunis, Bell and Hahn are a terrific central trio, and spending time with them is a lot of fun. Their characters don’t really progress here, and Kunis in particular feels a bit shortchanged. But these three mine comedy where it doesn’t necessarily seem to exist. Baranski, Hines and Sarandon too are game for making the most of two dimensional characters, and the film builds up enough charm to get to the finish line in a decent state. There are some good chuckles – although the gag count is down from this and summer success Girls Trip – but you do still get likeable characters, faffing their way through Christmas and family cliches, and making a decent fist of it.
Considering A Bad Moms Christmas starts with an opening not dissimilar to The Hangover, it’s a relief that it avoids many of that trilogy’s pitfalls. It also, unsurprisingly, teases a further chapter before it draws to an abrupt stop (and the end credits sequence can’t match that of the last film, but it has a good go). It’s a fairly obvious recommendation that building an extra six months at least into the schedule to pen a better script would help enormously next time. Here, they’ve got away with it once. I’m not sure they could pull it off again. But this’ll do for now.