For a passive-aggressive Mother’s Day gift, I recommend taking your mom to the film of the same name. If you haven’t quite found the present that says, “Mom, I hate you for bringing me into the world,” this is the (movie) ticket. Somehow inferior to both its celebratory predecessors “New Year’s Eve” and “Valentine’s Day,” Garry Marshall’s “Mother’s Day” is the cinematic equivalent of spilling boiling hot coffee on your mother when you bring her burnt toast for breakfast in bed.
The film begins with Meghan Trainor singing, “You might have a mom. She might be the bomb,” and it still manages to get worse from there. Focusing on four mothers, Jennifer Aniston plays Sandy, a divorced mom of two boys who is surprised to learn that her ex (Timothy Olyphant) has eloped with a much younger model (Shay Mitchell). Meanwhile, Kate Hudson is Jesse, a married mom who hasn’t spoken to her mother (Margo Martindale) since she made a racist comment about her then-boyfriend, and current husband Russell (Aasif Mandvi). Julia Roberts is Miranda, a Home Shopping Network star and author who forwent motherhood in favor of her career. Or did she? (Spoiler alert: No.) Finally, Jason Sudeikis is a widower trying to raise two girls after the death of their mother (Jennifer Garner in a brief cameo). All their stories connect, but you won’t care how.
“Mother’s Day” features some of the most artless product placement in recent memory, and I hesitate to name the brands for fear of giving them more attention. When Sudeikis’ character throws a party, an attendee says, “I think your daddy used his veteran’s discount at ProFlowers.” I Googled it, and this is an actual thing. A hospital vending machine has row after row of M&Ms, and the candy gets more screen time than Emmy winner Martindale. The sign for the Atlanta Four Seasons is shown multiple times. If they could have figured out a way to include a link to book a luxury king suite while you’re watching the movie, I’m sure they would have.
The ensemble comedy screams its Atlanta setting at each moment it can, but I counted only one black actor with a small speaking role (Loni Love). No one talks with a Southern accent, other than Jesse’s Texas parents who live in a trailer park. With the exception of a minor character, everyone has huge, fancy homes, making “Mother’s Day” function better as affluency porn than as a movie.
“Mother’s Day” is more awkward and less funny than a elementary school skit if you’re not a parent of a child involved and about as enjoyable to sit through. There’s little humor and no heart in the script from Anya Kochoff Romano, Matt Walker and Tom Hines. This is the first produced screenplay for Walker and Hines, and it’s only the second from Romano after “Monster-in-Law.” This is a step down for all three, because not writing a movie is better than having produced this, and even “Monster-in-Law” made for more entertaining viewing. “Monster-in-Law.” I am actually recommending that you watch “Monster-in-Law” rather than see this. “Mother’s Day” is a laughable film, often for its unintentionally bad and unsubtle dialogue, but it’s never funny. Not even when it tries to go for physical comedy gags, which are equally unartful and poorly constructed as the rest the film, and sometimes involve characters that are never seen again (see the first clip below).
Marshall previously worked with Roberts on “Pretty Woman,” and there’s an excruciating scene where the actress and Marshall favorite Hector Elizondo reference that rom-com hit with a line of dialogue about a salad fork. Those who don’t have “Pretty Woman” memorized will probably just overlook it as one more bit of nonsense among many, and those who do can only think about how much worse this movie is in every way possible. To all involved, I just wanted to say, “Big mistake. Big. Huge.” [D-]