Film Review: ‘Moms’ Night Out’

Moms' Night Out Review

A shrill feature-length sitcom for the faith-based family values crowd, if nowhere near as good as that sounds.

There’s nothing wrong with “Moms’ Night Out” that couldn’t be fixed by a massive rewrite, preferably one that involves a lobotomy for the main character. Capturing the chaos that ensues when three overworked mothers decide to take a breather, this dismally unfunny comedy features barely a single instance of what most adults would recognize as human behavior — a curious failure for a movie aiming to resonate with all the frazzled mothers and fathers in the audience. Basically a shrill feature-length sitcom for the faith-based family-values crowd, if nowhere near as good as that sounds, Sony/TriStar’s Mother’s Day-timed release could get some mileage out of its high-profile Christian backers (namely co-star Patricia Heaton) but won’t exactly follow in the blessed B.O. footsteps of “Heaven Is for Real” and “God’s Not Dead.”

With her husband, Sean (Sean Astin), frequently away on business, Allyson (Sarah Drew), a very high-strung, churchgoing mother of three, can’t remember the last time she experienced a moment’s peace and quiet. After a particularly taxing Mother’s Day full of the kids’ usual shenanigans (coloring on the walls, attempting an ill-advised cooking experiment, getting toilet seats stuck to their heads, etc.), Ally decides she needs a break from all the craziness, and invites two other harried moms — her not-so-bright friend Izzy (Andrea Logan White) and pastor’s wife Sondra (Heaton) — to join her for a rare Saturday evening on the town.

In the script’s highly reductive view of the sexes, neither Sean nor Izzy’s husband (Robert Amaya) can handle the kids for more than five minutes, and before long, the night has gone foolishly, ridiculously haywire. While the dads run around chasing wayward pet birds and attending to random medical emergencies, the moms find themselves first turned away from their chosen restaurant by a bitchy hostess (Anjelah Johnson, who was much funnier as rude fast-food employee Bon Qui Qui on “Mad TV”), then forced to help out another mom in distress, Ally’s sister-in-law (Abbie Cobb), who learns that her ex-boyfriend (Harry Shum Jr., “Glee”) has left their toddler son at a tattoo parlor. Various idiotic hijinks ensue, involving a British-accented cab driver (David Hunt, Heaton’s husband and fellow exec producer) and a motorcycle-gang leader named Bones (Trace Adkins), plus a lengthy car chase and even a brief stint in jail for our much-hassled heroines.

Sibling filmmakers Andrew and Jonathan Erwin, who previously collaborated on the 2011 anti-abortion melodrama “October Baby,” are clearly not overly concerned with subtlety. Amid all the parental psychodrama and strained slapstick — set to a relentless, droning soundtrack that veers from Ingrid Michaelson to “Gangnam Style” — the directors, working from a screenplay by Jonathan Erwin and Andrea Nasfell, squeeze in a few comforting homiletic nuggets about the hard-won joys and rewards of child rearing. These come mostly courtesy of the sensible, smart-talking Sondra, not exactly a stretch for Heaton (“The Middle,” “Everybody Loves Raymond”), although Bones turns out to be quite the biker theologian: “I doubt the Good Lord made a mistake giving your kids the mama he did,” he intones solemnly, cueing Ally to suddenly find herself on the brink of tears.

It might have been a nice moment, except that Ally finds herself on said teary brink with alarming frequency in “Moms’ Night Out.” Drew is an appealing actress best known for her work on “Grey’s Anatomy,” a series in which she once came face-to-face with a hospital shooter and narrowly escaped with her life; the Erwin brothers appear to have watched that scene and directed the actress to sustain that same pitch of life-and-death hysteria for 98 minutes, reacting to even the mildest setback with a full-blown panic attack, and inflating every nervous twitch and gasp of horror into some sort of freakshow parody of manic-depressive motherhood. It’s an insufferable performance, and as hectic and overbearing as full-time parenting can be, it’s the rare mom indeed who will see much of herself in this hyper-exaggerated caricature.

As the characters doing their utmost to coax Ally off the ledge at any minute, Heaton and Astin come off best in a cast of faces largely familiar from TV. The film was shot in Birmingham, Ala., though apart from a few Southern accents and token black characters, the low-budget production has little in the way of local atmosphere.

Film Review: 'Moms' Night Out'

Reviewed on DVD, Poipu, Hawaii, April 28, 2014. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 97 MIN.

Production

A Sony Pictures Entertainment release of a TriStar Pictures presentation in association with Affirm Films and Provident Films with Pure Flix Entertainment and Four Boys Entertainment of a Kevin Downes production. Produced by Downes, Andrew Erwin, Jonathan Erwin, Daryl Lefever, Michael Scott, David A.R. White, Russell Wolfe, Elizabeth Travis. Executive producers, Patricia Heaton, David Hunt.

Crew

Directed by the Erwin Brothers. Screenplay, Jonathan Erwin, Andrea Nasfell. Camera (color, widescreen), Kristopher S. Kimlin; editors, Andrew Erwin, Jonathan Olive; music, Marc Fantini, Steffan Fantini; music supervisor, Kevin Edelman; production designer, Mark Garner; art director, John Tegethoff; costume designer, Anna Redmon; sound, Stephen Preston; stunt coordinator, Monte Perlin; assistant director, Justin Tolley; casting, Beverly Holloway.

With

Sarah Drew, Sean Astin, Patricia Heaton, Andrea Logan White, Robert Amaya, Harry Shum Jr., Abbie Cobb, Sammi Hanratty, Alex Kendrick, Kevin Downes, Anjelah Johnson, Rhoda Griffis, Manwell Reyes, Jason Burkey, Brett Rice, Lance Nichols, Randy McDowell, Brad Heller, Michael Leone, Shiloh Nelson, David Hunt, Trace Adkins.

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 14

Leave a Reply

14 Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. vgibbs14 says:

    Wow…”a curious failure for a movie aiming to resonate with all the frazzled mothers and fathers in the audience.” Hmmm…aside from “professional” critics like yourself, every consumer-driven review I have read has been positive. Something must be resonating with all those people. And if you think there aren’t women who can relate to Sarah Drew’s character, you are wrong. Her character was, perhaps, most genuine of all to me…because I had been there. The salmonella thing; the crying frequently…raising children is hard (and noble and worthy and wonderful too, I might add). Sometimes you have to move heaven and earth just to get 5 minutes alone, so, yes, we stay-at-home homeschooling moms do get a bit emotional when something threatens to wreck our plans. And most of the time, we do wonder if we’re doing a terrible job, even when we KNOW we’re doing the best thing for our kids. Mom’s Night Out is funny, heartwarming, and RELATABLE. And, yes, it’s sometimes ridiculous. But it wouldn’t be a comedy otherwise.

  2. Liz says:

    Just saw this movie with two fellow moms and reading this review certainly reflects how out of touch the reviewer is with family life for many people. “this dismally unfunny comedy features barely a single instance of what most adults would recognize as human behavior” and “as hectic and overbearing as full-time parenting can be, it’s the rare mom indeed who will see much of herself in this hyper-exaggerated caricature.” There were so many echoes of agreement in the theater throughout the movie from the viewers….they must have all been “not most adults” or simply “rare moms”, I suppose.

  3. Dan Roden says:

    Real quick: 87% of normal people from all walks of life liked and recommend this movie. Only 14% of so called “movie critics” and worse yet only 7% of so called “top movie critics”. Shows how out of touch you all are. It seems the more one moves up the movie critic ranking to become a “top” movie critic, the more out of touch one becomes. The only other explanation is just the good ‘ole intolerant, anti-tradition or anti-Christian bigotry.

  4. Susie says:

    Mom’s Night Out is full of things we’ve all said/wanted to say, done/wanted to do. At every turn it’s your Mom, your sister, your girlfriend, your kid, your husband. This movie magnifies all the silliness of life in a way that makes it purposeful.

  5. Amy says:

    Great movie, I loved it. Went with a group of ladies and had a blast. It is great to have a movie that is funny and not vulgar.

  6. S.G.momof4 says:

    It’s hilarious. It’s my life. Sorry if it bores you. When Patricia Heaton explains to her teenaged daughter that she doesn’t want her to make the same mistakes she did… Spot. on. I see caring men producing this, I do not see a caring one reviewing this.

  7. ron says:

    This is one of the stupidest reviews ever written. Get a life (and a sense of humor).

  8. A Mom That Will Pass says:

    So, let me get this straight. A male wrote the screen play (albeit a female is given second billing). Two males directed the film. From looking at IMDB, it appears most of the crew was male with females filling more “traditional” roles as makeup artist, etc. The lead character is a stay at home Mom. I think all of the above are telling of how the decision makers on this project view women. As a female, why would I want to go see this? Males – why would you want to go see this film? It appears you all are portrayed as needing to be “begged” to care for the children, and when you do take care of the kids things go terribly wrong.

    I’m sure it will do moderately well thanks to the “church marketing” scheme. It seems more Hallmark, movie of the week or Lifetime material. Definitely not big screen.

    Give me a movie written by women and with women in leadership roles in the project, and then I want to see it. I refuse to spend money on an overly preachy interpretation of how males view my role as a mother, female or place in society. Directors – you might be married, you might have kids, you may have even consulted your wives on the story, but you don’t know our story.

    • mom in bham says:

      I actually have met those brothers and their wives. They are married with kids and at least one of their wives is a stay at home mom. They are very caring and understanding husbands.
      I get the wanting a totally woman run production, but don’t lash out about people you don’t know.

      • Karen says:

        You go to see a film like this because it’s funny. You stay away from a film like this because you think reality TV is real. If you have been duped enough to believe that only women can make a movie about women, your prejudices will keep you from watching this movie.

        And, the loss will be yours.

  9. I have seen a screener of the film and thought the movie was hilarious, moving and a wonderful celebration of moms. Honestly, one of the best films I’ve ever seen. I wrote my own review, “3 reasons moms night out is the funniest movie you’ve never seen,” here: http://michaelfoust.com/2014/05/04/3-reasons-moms-night-out-is-the-funniest-movie-youve-never-seen/

  10. Mom of Four says:

    Sounds stressful not entertaining! Is it in the movie theater or how did the other commenters see the movie?

  11. Just another Mom says:

    This movie is awesome AND very funny! As a mom of two I could relate to a lot of the scenes…I can’t wait to take a group of ladies (and their husbands) to see this movie! I haven’t laughed so hard in a LONG time and the best thing about it is it’s something I wouldn’t mind my kids seeing…you totally got this review ALL wrong!

  12. joy says:

    As a mother of 4 … I can’t wait to see it. The key here, the one I think you may not be able to ever grasp, is that us harried mothers need a laugh, and a movie that celebrates what we do each and every day, while the laughs might be trite and overdone, is right up our ally.

More Film News from Variety

Loading