In “A Bad Moms Christmas,” it's double the moms, double the bad.
Last time around, a year and change ago, the “Bad Moms” were just a trio of Wine Moms — Amy (Mila Kunis), Kiki (Kristen Bell) and Carla (Kathryn Hahn) — letting loose with some shots while letting go of perfectionism.
Now their moms — Ruth (Christine Baranski), Sandy (Cheryl Hines) and Isis (Susan Sarandon) — are in town for the holidays, and we've got a veritable cornucopia of naughty mommies.
“Bad Moms”: now with more emotional manipulation.
The existential plight of the Wine Mom — who seeks relief from the crushing weight of heteronormative capitalist patriarchy at the bottom of a chardonnay bottle — is a real cultural crisis. Someone should shine a light on this, but co-writers and co-directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore are not those storytellers. Mostly because one has to wonder if Lucas and Moore have ever even met human women. These characters are cartoonish campy drag personae of women, categorized by their attributes, like Santa's reindeer or the Smurfs: Stressy, Crazy, Slutty, Critical, Clingy and Drifter.
Kunis stars as Amy, always harried, always “busy.” She's divorced with a couple of kids (Oona Laurence and Emjay Anthony), whom she warily appraises, as if she's not quite sure who they are or why they're in her house. She shares the same chemistry with Baranski and Peter Gallagher, who play her parents, treating them like a couple of wayward strangers.
With her gal pals, it's all forced fun, loud laughing, cheers-ing and declarations of “let's take back Christmas!”
“Bad Moms” seemed to spring from a single inspired scene (moms going crazy at a house party), with the rest of the movie written around it, and “A Bad Moms Christmas” takes the same approach. So when the “twerking on Santa” sequence is over within the first 10 minutes, the film is adrift, filled with tedious male stripper filler material. It's the “Bad Moms” Meet “Magic Mike” Holiday Extravaganza, only with truly ghastly dancing.
“A Bad Moms Christmas” is a poorly gift-wrapped Pinterest fail of a movie. The Scotch tape in the equation, bravely straining to hold things together, is the emphatic delivery of lines, made to trick us into thinking lines that are not jokes are, actually, jokes. The bows and trim, attempting to distract from obvious seams, are the endless slow-motion montages of mayhem set to pop tunes.
Baranski is wonderfully sharp as the monstrous Type A one-percenter Ruth, and she does get a few amazing lines. (“Those ornaments are from the Titanic! That ice is from the moon! Moon ice!” she shrieks, as she and her daughter symbolically tussle over a Christmas tree.) Hines is also delightfully surreal as the overprotective Sandy. Hahn is always the best around, but you can't help but internally scream “this is beneath you!” almost every moment she's on screen.
What's offensive about “A Bad Moms Christmas” (and “Bad Moms”) is just how shoddily made it is. Female audiences deserve better movies than this. Furthermore, it positions the enemies of moms as other moms — not the rigidly gendered social structures and expectations that demand women do the majority of the domestic and emotional labor. Rather than men or money being the enemy, it's other women, and that's not fair. Here's to hoping for “A Bad Moms Revolution” as the final installment.
Katie Walsh is a Tribune News Service critic.
Rating: R, for crude sexual content and language throughout, and some drug use
Running time: 1 hour, 44 minutes
Playing: In general release