Director Garry Marshall’s latest ensemble comedy “Mother’s Day” (opening in theaters nationwide April 29) is a terribly flawed movie — but it has one critical and fundamental flaw: it is simply not funny.
In short: The week leading up to Mother’s Day shakes up the life of a daughter hiding a marriage, a widower struggling with the death of his wife, a young mother reluctant to get married and a divorcée surprised by her ex-husband’s new wife. Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Jason Sudeikis, Britt Robertson and Julia Roberts lead an ensemble cast. (Watch the trailer)
To its credit, it’s clear the writers started with a definite thesis — the main characters are each challenged to find ways to appreciate the mothers in their lives. The core of “Mother’s Day” comes from a well-meaning place and an earnest cast does their darnedest to salvage “Mother’s Day” — but sadly, the best efforts of a talented cast and a movie with a nice message cannot make up for the fact that this comedy has virtually zero laughs.
Crafting a comedy that isn’t funny is an unforgivable cinematic failure. The few punchlines in this film fall into one of three buckets: corny, broad and/or stale. The only jokes less funny than “old people can’t use technology” are gags where young folk are surprised at how well an old person can use Skype. Kate Hudson’s story is little more than some silly slapstick hijinks as she tries to hide her Indian husband from her racist mom – and Britt Robertson’s story is so bereft of humor that the writers just dropped a stand-up comic into her storyline. And in its saddest moments of resignation, this film resorts to cheap and uninspired laughs – such as an overweight woman awkwardly failing in a pole dancing class or a little boy wearing his costume backward — it’s funny because his lion tail is now inappropriately protruding from the front his costume, you see!.
Even if one is able to somehow laugh at this film’s lazy attempts at humor, the clumsy editing of “Mother’s Day” is an appalling feat of technical incompetence. This film doesn’t just erratically shift between storylines — which alone makes this a jarring movie experience — it’s also alarmingly tone deaf in its blunderous editing. Whether the film is introducing a dire medical emergency before smash cutting to a silly karaoke scene or oddly transitioning from a midget joke to a husband standing at his wife’s grave, “Mother’s Day” is packed with weird tonal shifts. Masterful film editing is one of the most powerful tools of storytelling — and “Mother’s Day” is a case study in how to ineptly slam together several unrelated storylines into a lumbering heap that consistently kills any and all attempts at comedic or dramatic momentum.
Final verdict: “Mother’s Day” squanders a talented cast and a well-meaning thesis on a shoddily edited mess that settles for lazy comedy and sappy sentimentality. The idea that “well, people will come to see a bunch of actors they recognize in a movie with a ‘nice’ message and some cheap laughs” is pretty insulting. This is the exactly the type of film that turns audiences into cynical moviegoers with lowered expectations.
“Mother’s Day” opens in theaters nationwide April 28. This film has a running time of 118 minutes and is rated PG-13 for language and some suggestive material.