Mother’s Day

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.


The Angry Birds Movie

Cast: (voiced by) Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Kate McKinnon, Sean Penn, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key, Bill Hader, Peter Dinklage

Directors: Clay Kaytis, Fergal Reilly

Writer: Jon Vitti

I’m not really one for mobile games. I do sometimes play Minesweeper on my phone, but that’s about it. I’ve therefore never played a single game of Angry Birds in my life and knew little about it beyond its basic concept. I can certainly remember a time when Angry Birds was the biggest app in the world and can only imagine how popular this film might have been if it came out five years ago. I doubt I know a single person who still plays Angry Birds today. However, since The Lego Movie proved in 2014 that a blatant commercial could still be a smart and entertaining movie, maybe now really is the right time for mobile apps to start making the leap to the big screen. I hope this means that there is a Minesweeper movie in development somewhere. Anyway, whatever the level of popularity it holds today, The Angry Birds Movie is the film we got.

The film takes place on Bird Island, home to a wide variety of flightless birds. One of them, Red, lives in isolation from the rest of the community due to his anger issues. After an incident sends him over the edge Red is ordered to attend a series of anger management meetings held by Matilda. The other attendees are Chuck, a swift and zippy yellow bird, Bomb, a well-meaning black bird with a tendency to explode (literally), and Terrence, a giant, intimidating red bird with an apparently sadistic temperament. One of their sessions is then suddenly interrupted by the arrival of a boat carrying green pigs. Leonard, the leader of the pigs, claims his intentions are peaceful and wins the birds over with his offerings of friendship. Red however is not convinced. He enlists Chuck and Bomb to help him discover the pigs’ true intent and uncovers a heinous plot that will doubtless already be known to the millions of viewers familiar with the game.

The Angry Birds Movie is a harmless film with some nice animation and a few laughs, but that’s about it. It has very little of the creativity, imagination and dynamism that made The Lego Movie such a smash hit. The plot is pretty banal and safe, the characters are distinctive but mostly forgettable and the comedy consists almost entirely of bird or pig related puns and slapstick. There are enough bright colours and movement on screen to hold young children’s attention and distract them for a while but not enough character, story or inventiveness to engage them. The theme of the resentful, solitary loner learning to open himself up to others and become a part of the community is a familiar one we’ve all seen in a hundred better movies and there isn’t much that the film does to present it in a different or fresher light. I suppose the film does kind of distinguish itself by engaging with anger and concluding that there is actually a time and a place to allow yourself to become angry but it isn’t nearly as profound as what Inside Out did with sadness.

Red is the protagonist and the titular angry bird of this film but there isn’t a lot that can be said about him. The film does give him a backstory that provides an explanation for his anger but even then he isn’t particularly interesting, funny or entertaining as a character. The majority of the side characters are hardly worth mentioning. You can work out their quirks and traits within two seconds of meeting them and whatever amusing characteristics they have get worn out very quickly. The weakest character for me was probably Mighty Eagle, a revered figure who turns out to not be as mighty as the tales held him to be. Our introduction to him consists of a feeble, lowbrow joke that isn’t nearly as funny as the filmmakers think it is. I did however enjoy Terrence, a daunting behemoth who only ever communicates in grunts, a characteristic I appreciated all the more at the end when I found out who voiced him. For me he was probably the only consistently funny character in the movie.

The film does pick up at the climax when the birds are finally allowed to be the Angry Birds from the game. Here the film has some fun with its characters and their singular abilities and allows things to get a little creative and chaotic for a while. I’m not sure it was worth the wait though. There are a lot of lame jokes, stale character moments and clichéd plot developments that have to be endured before you can reach that point. The animation is nice enough and the characters are variable enough that your five-year-old won’t be bored while watching it but there isn’t much to be taken away from this film. Maybe if they’d gone the same route as The Lego Movie and just allowed themselves to go crazy they might have made something funnier, more entertaining and more memorable. Instead they played it safe and the result is a cute but forgettable movie.