Some kind of magic happens when Toni Collette and Bridget Everett share the screen in Alethea Jones’ “Fun Mom Dinner.” The duo initially face off as philosophically oppositional moms tossed together in service to the eponymous gathering, eventually finding common ground (and fertile comedic opportunities). Unfortunately, the rest of the film is a scattershot affair.
Penned by Julie Rudd in her feature debut, “Fun Mom Dinner” is as advertised, following four moms over the course of one very wild night out. Katie Aselton is the straight woman as supermom Emily who is secretly struggling with her romance-free marriage to Tom (Adam Scott) and her latent disappointment in leaving her legal career to become a full-time parent.
While Emily and her family are new to the local fancy-pants private school, Emily has a connection in Kate (Collette), her high school best friend who is dealing with her own parenting issues. When Emily is asked out to a “fun mom dinner” by the overinvolved Melanie (Everett) and the single and social media-obsessed Jamie (Molly Shannon), she jumps at the chance to do something different. Wacky hijinks ensue.
“Fun Mom Dinner” kicks off from an admirably grounded place, and the early part of the moms’ dinner zips right along, thanks to amusing conversation and major chemistry between the four women. Everett and Collette seem to relish every minute that their characters spend trading barbs that eventually give way to a flinty friendship. If nothing else, Jones’ film makes the case for Collette and Everett to find another film together as soon as possible, if only to see what else the pair can do.
Elsewhere, a subplot involving the left-behind dads stays both amusing and real, with parenting disasters that include screaming babies and an ill-timed locked door. Rudd’s script doesn’t shy from the more unpleasant aspects of parenthood, but a bent towards cheap laughs diminishes even its wisest touches. When “Fun Mom Dinner” avoids opting into silly gags and strange plot movements that only mine for passing laughs, it works, and works well.
By the film’s second half, however, its early promise has devolved. The story becomes reliant on unlikely twists including a trip to a pot dispensary that seems to exist only for surface-level laughs and an unfortunate visit to a bar run by Adam Levine, who takes a quick shine to Emily. Abandoning its relatable chuckles and insights in order to deliver sequences involving Everett and Colette plunging into the ocean (seriously, get these two a buddy cop comedy right now), Shannon meeting cute with an uncomfortable Paul Rust and a flat-out insane party with text-obsessed teens, “Fun Mom Dinner” ends its once-promising start with a whimper.
The moms? Solid. The dinner? Excellent. The fun? Diminishing.
“Fun Mom Dinner” premiered in the Premieres section at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Netflix and Momentum Pictures will release it later this year.