Taking your mom to see “Mother’s Day” might sound like a great idea, but by the time it’s over she may be ready to disown you. The third in Garry Marshall’s insufferable holiday comedies, following “Valentine’s Day” and “New Year’s Eve”, this one is, you guessed it, centered around the holiday dedicated to the women who gave us all life. But all of the A-list stars and baby jokes in the world aren’t enough to cover for this misguided and surprisingly mean-spirited film that has more product placement than laughs.
It took six writers (including Marshall himself) to come up with some of the most obvious inter-connected comedy plots ever. There’s predictable and then there are the rote sitcom contrivances of Marshall’s holiday films. Jennifer Aniston plays Sandy, a divorced mother of two boys who can’t deal with the fact that her ex-husband (Timothy Olyphant, rather insufferable here) has re-married to a gorgeous young woman (Shay Mitchell) she calls a “tween”. Not only is she young, but Sandy’s boys seem to love her. Oh, someone’s feeling left out and lonely. Hope she finds somebody to cheer her up.
Enter Jason Sudeikis as Bradley, a single Dad coping with the death of his wife (Jennifer Garner), a soldier killed in action. He’s got two girls to look after now, and you guessed there might be an awkward tampon scene then you win a prize! There’s also Kate Hudson and Sarah Chalke as siblings Jesse and Gabi, who have a pair of racist, homophobic trailer trash parents (Margo Martindale and Robert Pine) show up and blow up their spot. See, Jesse is *gasp* married to a Middle Eastern man (Aasif Mandvi, probably should have revolted), who her parents casually refer to as a “towelhead”; while Gabi is a lesbian in a committed relationship. Neither parent approves, and a hail of racist jokes ensues that we are meant to think are cute because….well, why are we supposed to think they’re cute? The casual bigotry this film allows is far more offensive than the unfunny jokes and Julia Roberts’ awful wig (more on that in a bit). And even at one point the writers seem to acknowledge it when one character says, “I don’t get that joke, but it sounds racist.” Well, it was. Somebody get upset over it, please?
A couple of other needless storylines collide as Julia Roberts, decked out in the most severely horrendous wig since Kate Mara in Fantastic Four, plays infomercial guru Miranda. We come to learn, through some on-the-nose scripting, that Miranda gave up everything in pursuit of her career, including her family. Britt Robertson and Jack Whitehall play an unmarried couple with a new baby who are trying to juggle his burgeoning comedy with her desperate search for her birth mother.
All of these various plots converge in ways so shoehorned they could be endorsed by Reebok. Speaking of which, paying the salaries of this cast doesn’t come cheap, and the amount of product placement could fill a dozen baby cribs. In one hospital scene, the very single Sandy gets her hand stuck in a snack machine just in time for the conveniently injured (and also very single) Bradley to help her. The machine just so happens to be filled with nothing but M&Ms, or more M&Ms than any respectable place of healing would allow. Didn’t your mother warn you about spoiling dinner? Apparently not.
It’s easy to understand why stars sign up for movies like this. They don’t take any time, and Marshall is probably very persuasive. “Hey Julia, you wouldn’t be anything if it wasn’t for me and “Pretty Woman”, you got that?” must sound pretty convincing. Hopefully she fought him on the wig. She should have fought him on more. In most cases, a film like “Mother’s Day” would be a forgettable diversion. It would arrive, take up a couple of hours of time, and most in the audience would go away feeling a bit better. But the tone deaf dialogue prevents this from being a film that can be just casually dismissed. It should be actively avoided for dear old mom’s sake.