Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Julia Roberts, Jason Sudeikis, Timothy Olyphant, Britt Robertson, Héctor Elizondo, Jack Whitehall
Director: Garry Marshall
Writers: Tom Hines, Anya Kochoff Romano, Matt Walker
Mother’s Day is the third offering by Garry Marshall in his calendar rom-com series, a bunch of movies that are more interested in making posters packed with (mostly white) A-Listers than in telling smart and funny stories. They pick a bankable holiday, land an ensemble of big name actors with bills to pay and work them into a bunch of loosely related stories that range from the silly to the clichéd to the cringeworthy. These overstuffed films feature a plethora of bland characters dealing with first-world problems in implausible and unfunny ways before leading to an ending of simplified solutions, weak morals and more schmaltz than the human mind can handle. When it comes down to it, Mother’s Day is probably not as terrible as New Year’s Eve was, but that’s not saying much. It’s still a weak, unwitty film with barely any insights to offer on motherhood and absolutely no entertainment value.
As Mother’s Day approaches a group of characters must deal with their maternal relationships. Sandy (Jennifer Aniston) fears losing her status as a mother to her two children when her ex-husband Henry (Timothy Olyphant) marries his much younger girlfriend Tina (Shay Mitchell). Bradley (Jason Sudeikis) is a widowed father who has taken on the role of the mother for his two daughters. Jesse (Kate Hudson) and her sister Gabi (Sarah Chalke) are dreading the impending visitation of their conservative mother Flo (Character Actress Margo Martindale) as they’ve yet to tell her about Jesse’s Indian husband Russell (Aasif Mandvi) and their child or of Gabi’s wife Max (Cameron Esposito). Meanwhile Kristin (Britt Robertson) shares a child with her comedian boyfriend Zack (Jack Whitehall) but is still reluctant to marry him due to her abandonment issues from being an adopted child. Lastly Miranda (Julia Roberts), an accomplished writer who remained unmarried and childless to focus on her career, receives an unexpected Mother’s Day surprise.
An attempt to provide an insight into what to expect from this film seems almost redundant to me since anyone who has so much as glanced at the poster knows exactly what kind of movie this will be. This is a mainstream vanilla movie that is desperate to avoid any kind of controversy whatsoever. It’s the kind of film where any attempt at comedy is to strictly remain light and inoffensive for fear of showing even the slightest glimpse of an edge. It’s the kind of film where political correctness is considered the same thing as being progressive. It’s the kind of film where moments of drama are soapy and sentimental because the prospect of having a moment that actually matters is terrifying. This film wants to be as broad and mainstream as humanly possible and actively avoids taking so much as a single risk in its story or humour for fear of alienating a single audience member. Thus by seeking to be as safe and unoffending as possible, the film fails to provide even a semblance of character or substance.
Heavens knows what this ensemble could have accomplished with a story worthy of their abilities. That the comic talents featured in this cast could barely attain a laugh between them speaks to the weakness of the material they were given. Whether its Jason Sudeikis getting embarrassed while buying tampons for his daughter or Jack Whitehall giving a stand-up routine without anything even resembling a joke in it, it’s difficult to see how any of the cast members could possibly have risen above this movie. We’re talking about a film that made casual racism more of a quirk than a flaw for Character Actress Margo Martindale’s role. Not even Julia Roberts escaped with her dignity intact. The wig she dons is so damn distracting that I can barely remember what her character even did in the film. The sheer talent that was wasted in this film is just embarrassing.
This movie is nothing more than a waste of time for both the crew that made it and the audiences that have watched it. It advertises itself as a celebration of motherhood but offers little to nothing in the way of insight about the challenges and fulfilment one gets from being a mother. The drama in this movie is cheap and contrived because all Mother’s Day wants is to cash in on the sentimentality without putting in the work to actually earn the heart it pretends to have. To stop its audience from realising this it tries to distract them with recognisable faces and a bit of light comedy that is supposed to appear quirky but is actually depressingly flat and nauseating. I want to conclude however by adding that I admire Garry Marshall as a writer and director and was sad to hear of his passing. It is a shame that such a long and distinguished career that has included such works as Happy Days, The Odd Couple and Pretty Woman should end here. Whatever my thoughts on his more recent films, Marshall’s effort to continue working after more than half a century in the business reflects a deep and profound enthusiasm for the movies. I certainly cannot find any fault with that.