When I was young I gleefully enjoyed a certain number of embarrassing it’s so obviously awful movies. While I was never on the Bad Movies I Love side with “Showgirls” (I found it risibly unpleasant than I did funny), on my list was “Sidekicks,” “Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine,” “Reefer Madness” and “The Karate Kid Part III.” Continuing from an unofficial romantic holiday trilogy by Garry Marshall that included “Valentine’s Day” and “New Year’s Eve,” the latest Mother’s Day is another one that’s so bad it’s funny, and it should be made clear that the biggest laughs are often unintentional. If Marshall’s previous movies concentrated on interlinking dopey plots, this one takes the lower down the dial sitcom cake.
The writing leads up to the week of Mother’s Day, then gives us a Mother’s Day where not one storyline features a sit-down brunch or dinner, and ends so surprisingly quick that I felt most of the storylines hadn’t even been concluded properly. That kind of incompetence only made me laugh harder.
Kate Hudson is casually beautiful the whole time, like magazine cover shoot ready for “Home Living” and “Marie Claire.” Jennifer Aniston is doing that cute-neurotic cliché thing of hers that’s happened since “Friends.” Julia Roberts plays a Home Shopping Network tycoon host in a way that allows the actress to indulge in her prima donna fantasies – her character hawks mood-enhancer jewelry. Jason Sudeikis gets to play a grieving widow in a sad lost puppy sort of way. Jennifer Garner got paid some good money to play his dead wife, a Marine who lost her life in service who is resurrected in a beloved last family video.
I believe all these stars, and more, had a jolly good time working on this movie with a sunny director, performing scenes on beautiful Georgia real estate, and getting to chew on deliciously corny dialogue. I don’t believe that would have been the case for “New Year’s Eve” where the shoot had to take place during a frigid New York winter cold.
Faring less successfully is young ingenue Britt Robertson, who plays a commitment-phobe mother of a baby girl, with an impossibly cute and patient father wanting commitment from her (he’s Jack Whitehall, whose character is also a stand-up comedian stoked to win a “Last Man Standing” type of comedy jackpot) wading through endless forlorn dialogue. Robertson is awful. Yet I don’t think it would have been possible for any actress to not be awful in this glum yet clichéd role. Robertson is cute, has pouty lips, reasonably looks like she could be Julia Roberts’ daughter. She will have a good acting career beyond this, even if she had to re-dub such a superfluous line as “I have abandonment issues” with the camera not even pointed at her.
The surprise super-attractive person is Shay Mitchell, with brown sugar skin and the black mane of an award-winning stallion. She can play soap opera, she can be a fashion model, she can play family movies as the hot girl, and she can play in any movie like “Mother’s Day.” Mitchell plays the new wife to Timothy Olyphant, who critic Jordan Hoffman says squints in every scene – I say you can make a drinking game out of finding the two scenes in which Olyphant doesn’t squint. Olyphant’s character shares children with the neurotic Aniston, and so while it’s clear they are not getting back together any time soon, one must figure that she and Sudeikis should eventually hook up. But I don’t think Sudeikis should shut the door on that woman down the street just yet, whose name rhymes with sexy because she’s Lexi. Sudeikis has the most awesome, and believable job, of anybody in the film. He runs a gymnasium that features a stripper pole dancing class. I can’t say I believed Aniston as a home interior decorator.
Sudeikis, I’d like to add, does a jaunty humpty-dumpty rap song, and has maybe the funniest fall in movie history. I’m not going to lie and say that I didn’t side-splittingly laugh during those early years of “America’s Funniest Home Videos” where people fell off ladders and down chimneys. I know how to lose my marbles and rollick in hysterical laughter when I see a really bad accident.
Not so funny because it’s racist – no, I’m kidding, I did find it very funny – is the scene where Hudson’s husband, played by Aasif Mandvi as an Indian, comes out of an RV dressed in a woman’s silk pink bathrobe is considered an immediate threat to three policemen who want him face down on the ground or they will taser or shoot him. Hudson’s xenophobic Texas redneck parents, who have crashed by for a surprise visit, have already referred to him as the “houseboy” and “towelhead.” When racism is portrayed this klutzy, why should one be offended? Despite the circumstances, Mandvi’s character is indignant for all the wrong reasons, I think, because he has committed the same act as his wife has, hiding his mother away from their marriage for just as long.
I could easily go on.
“Mother’s Day” is hewn from a thousand recycled clichés. Yet I have never seen a trash camp classic like it. Also with Hector Elizondo as Roberts’ agent and personal manager, who you could charge for being totally miscast and yet, in this case, he’s perfect for this.
118 Minutes. Rated PG-13.
ROMANTIC COMEDY / BAD MOVIES WE LOVE TO HATE / WEEKEND PARTY GAME RIDICULE