The original Bad Moms is a surprisingly good comedy about mothers who are determined to stop trying to do it all. A Bad Moms Christmas picks up shortly after the end of the first one and tells a similar story, but is applied to family and the expectations between mothers and daughters. As in the first one the acting and jokes hold the film together, but the underlying message does not come through as well this time around.
Christmas is approaching, and Carla (Kathryn Hahn), Amy (Mila Kunis), and Kiki (Kristen Bell) are already lamenting the societal expectations that put the burden of making the holiday perfect on their shoulders. Just as they make a pact to let go of the demands of the Christmas season, unexpected guests in the form of their own mothers turn up and put their new resolutions to the test. Each of the women faces their own unique challenge in regard to their mothers, but they all have to find a way to deal with their mothers as adults and set healthy boundaries.
Isis (Susan Sarandon) only comes into Carla’s life when she wants money for some new gambling venture. Amy’s mother Ruth (Christine Baranski) is a perfectionist who insists that her daughter conforms to her exacting idea of how to be a mother, while Kiki’s mother Susan (Cheryl Hines) crushes her with closeness and demands for all of Kiki’s attention. While a lot of the film revolves around Ruth’s attempts to strong arm Amy into doing things her way, the other two women’s stories are given enough attention for there to be a generally satisfying arch for each one.
The six women at the center of the film give fantastic performances, and it’s necessary to make some of the heavy-handed dialogue work. It helps that the actresses seem to enjoy the hell out of playing their characters. The original moms maintain their electric chemistry from the first film, but sadly they act more as a support group for each other and aren’t given many scenes with just the three of them. Thankfully the “new” moms are a fresh addition and while Christine Baranski is a step above the other two with her performance, both Sarandon and Hines are pitch-perfect at their roles.
A Bad Moms Christmas tries to maintain the same exaggerated tone as the first film, but the subject matter doesn’t allow it to do so. It dips into slapstick territory while also trying to have sincere moments of emotion. The original deals with the relatively light topics of the so called “mommy wars” and does it with some nuance. This one tries to discuss the infinitely more complex subject of adult children’s relationships with their parents, and the simple platitudes it offers as a solution to the conflict on screen are not enough to provide a convincing resolution.
As a fun comedy A Bad Moms Christmas doesn’t disappoint. There are plenty of great jokes and over the top scenes of mayhem, and the film is at its best when it tears down the ideas of achieving perfection during the holidays. It is when it attempts to use comedy to examine the more tragic family dynamics on screen that it falls flat, as it doesn’t have the running time or skill to deconstruct the issues at work. A Bad Moms Christmas is a mostly enjoyable start to the holiday season, as long as you don’t expect too much.