You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Mother’s Day’

Garry Marshall crashes another holiday with this disappointing star-filled dramedy.

Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Julia Roberts, Jason Sudeikis, Britt Robertson, Timothy Olyphant, Hector Elizondo, Jack Whitehall, Jennifer Garner, Aasif Mandvi, Sarah Chalke, Cameron Esposito, Anoush NaVart, Jon Lovitz

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4824302/

Like the glowing briefcase in “Pulp Fiction” or the final whispered words of “Lost in Translation,” the ill-fitting Anna Wintour wig worn by Julia Roberts in “Mother’s Day” seems destined to enter the pantheon of great cinematic mysteries. Did some earlier version of the script explain the wig’s presence? Why does no character in the film point out how strange it looks? Did Roberts insist on wearing the wig a leftover prop from one of her faux films in “Notting Hill” as a Brando-esque bit of actorly mischief, or does it hold deeper significance? We may never know the answers to these questions, but pondering them provides some welcome distraction while slogging through director Garry Marshall’s third minor-holiday ensemble comedy, which somehow makes one long for the Hallmark-card half-competence of predecessors “Valentine’s Day” and “New Year’s Eve.” Atrociously written, begrudgingly acted, haphazardly assembled and never more backward than when it thinks it’s being progressive, “Mother’s Day” should at least be able to count on Mother’s Day traffic to boost its box office — or at least it could have, were it not opening 10 days prior.

From the release date to the costuming to the heavy-handed Sprouts supermarket product placement, almost nothing about “Mother’s Day” makes much sense. It’s true that no one ever sets out to make a bad film, but in certain extreme cases the latter-day works of Adam Sandler, for example the creeping suspicion that so few people involved in making the film actually cared whether it was any good can be equally demoralizing. That’s certainly the case here.

After a brief voiceover from a never-seen character (Penny Marshall) about the daily struggles of motherhood, we’re introduced to an unwieldy cast of upper-class moms in the Atlanta area, all of whom share some roughly sketched troubles that come to a head in the week before Mother’s Day. The only one who really scans as a harried matriarch is Sandy (Jennifer Aniston), a stressed single-mother of two whose squinty ex-husband (Timothy Olyphant) has just announced his marriage to an airheaded twentysomething (Shay Mitchell).

Sandy commiserates with her constantly-exercising friend Jesse (Kate Hudson), who lives next door to her sister Gabi (Sarah Chalke). Both siblings have been keeping their children and spouses secret from their bigoted Texas parents Jesse’s husband Russell (Aasif Mandvi) is Indian, while Gabi is married to a woman (Cameron Esposito).

Further off in the film’s orbit, Jason Sudeikis takes a straight-man role as Bradley, a physical trainer facing his first Mother’s Day without his dead wife (Jennifer Garner, glimpsed in home movies singing karaoke at a military base), and befuddled by his oldest daughter’s sudden interest in boys and tampons. Elsewhere, Kristin (Britt Robertson) cares for her newborn while tending bar, rejecting the marriage proposals from the baby’s standup comic father (Jack Whitehall) on account of some childhood parental abandonment issues. On the conspicuously childless side of the coin “Do you have any kids?” “No. Career,” goes a representative exchange Roberts and her wig play a cheap-jewelry-hawking Home Shopping Network host, roughly as famous in the Atlanta area as Johnny Carson and Oprah combined.

Given the length of time required to simply introduce the cast, one can forgive Marshall and his team of screenwriters for falling back on easy, well-worn conflicts once the narrative wheels finally get moving. Most end predictably a wedding, a reconciliation, a moment of clarity, a Digital Underground karaoke session but a few go careening off the rails. Most unwatchable is the plot strand involving Jesse and Gabi’s hayseed parents, who pay their daughters a surprise visit. Riding around in an RV, clad head-to-toe in Stars and Stripes and using chicken wings as toothpicks, the two are such ghastly caricatures that the portrayal almost seems unfair toward racist homophobes. Luckily, they’re cured of their bone-deep bigotry thanks to an accidental Skype session with Russell’s broadly-played Indian mum (Anoush NaVart), who reveals that she too was once as prejudiced as they. Finally, a movie that makes “Crash” look like “Do the Right Thing.”

On that note, when a film is split between a half-dozen protagonists and set in a city that is 51% black, it really doesn’t seem unreasonable to wonder why it couldn’t make room for a woman of color or two among the major characters. (Then again, with roles like these, maybe it’s for the best.) Stranger still is the prevalence of the male gaze in a film about motherhood. No one breastfeeds in “Mother’s Day,” but the camera seems to be angled directly down Aniston’s cleavage in most of her scenes, and one strange sequence sees Hudson spill a glass of water on her shirt just so she can strip down to her bra while changing it. One keeps expecting the mishap to set up some kind of joke, but none arrives who exactly is this film for?

Save for a few minor ADR issues, the film’s craftsmanship is fine, and production designer Missy Stewart floods the sets with so much floral greenery that the whole movie might as well take place inside a Mother’s Day bouquet. It’s hard to fault the cast, given the scraps they’re forced to feed on, but only Aniston manages to inject any real life into her performance. She even has the film’s best line: Aghast at her ex-husband’s suggestion that their kids spend Mother’s Day with their new stepmom, she shoots back, “You can have Flag Day!” One just hopes that isn’t Marshall’s idea of a sequel.

Film Review: 'Mother's Day'

Reviewed at Real D Screening Room, Beverly Hills, April 25, 2016. MPAA rating: PG-13. Running time: 118 MIN.

Production: An Open Road Films presentation of a Wayne Rice/Gulfstream Pictures production in association with Aperture Media Partners, MayDay Movies, Triad Film Works, Beatnik Films. Produced by Mike Karz, Wayne Rice, Daniel Diamond, Brandt Anderson, Howard Burd, Mark DiSalle. Executive producers, Kevin Frakes, Ankur Rungta, Matthew Hooper, Jared D. Underwood, Danny Mandel, Rodger May, Fred Grimm, Bill Heavener, Scott Lipsky, Leon Corcos, Deborah E. Chausse, William Brindley.

Crew: Directed by Garry Marshall. Screenplay, Anya Kochoff Romano, Matt Walker, Tom Hines, from a story by Lily Hollander, Walker, Hines, Marshall. Camera (color), Charles Minsky; editors, Bruce Green, Robert Malina; music, John Debney; music supervisor, Julianne Jordan; production designer, Missy Stewart; costume designers, Marilyn Vance, Beverley Woods; art director, Paul Kelly; sound, Todd Weaver; supervising sound editor, Kerry Rodman; re-recording mixers, Rodman, Christopher S. Aud;  assistant director, David H. Venghaus; casting, Gail Goldberg, Barbara J. McCarthy.

With: Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Julia Roberts, Jason Sudeikis, Britt Robertson, Timothy Olyphant, Hector Elizondo, Jack Whitehall, Jennifer Garner, Aasif Mandvi, Sarah Chalke, Cameron Esposito, Anoush NaVart, Jon Lovitz

More Film

  • Vice Media

    Vice Media Taps Joe Simon as Chief Technology Officer (EXCLUSIVE)

    Joe Simon has been tapped as chief technology officer at Vice Media. More Reviews Film Review: 'My Extraordinary Summer With Tess' Film Review: 'Ghost Fleet' The newly created role will include oversight of data analytics, engineering, information technology, media operations, media technology, post production, and systems management. Prior to Vice, Simon spent three years as [...]

  • Michael B Jordan denzel washington

    Michael B. Jordan to Star in Denzel Washington's 'Journal for Jordan'

    Michael B. Jordan is in talks to star in Sony’s “Journal for Jordan,” a drama that will be directed by Denzel Washington. More Reviews Film Review: 'My Extraordinary Summer With Tess' Film Review: 'Ghost Fleet' The movie, penned by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Virgil Williams, is based on the true story of Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Dana [...]

  • Sylvester Stallone

    Sylvester Stallone's Superhero Drama 'Samaritan' Lands at MGM

    MGM is developing the superhero drama “Samaritan” with Sylvester Stallone attached to star and produce through his Balboa Productions. More Reviews Film Review: 'My Extraordinary Summer With Tess' Film Review: 'Ghost Fleet' The studio has acquired Bragi F. Schut’s script, which centers on a boy learning that a missing superhero, who vanished 20 years earlier [...]

  • Kendrick Lamar

    Oscars: Kendrick Lamar and SZA Will Not Perform 'Black Panther' Song (EXCLUSIVE)

    Despite the Academy’s efforts to secure Kendrick Lamar and SZA for a performance of the Oscar-nominated song “All the Stars” from “Black Panther” on the upcoming Oscars telecast, the duo will not be a part of the show, Variety has learned. The reason, according to a source close to the situation, is logistics and timing. [...]

  • Oscars Spa Treatments

    Area Spas Offer Red Carpet Treatments in Time for Oscars

    From a shopping session with a celebrity stylist to a covert airport pickup, these hotels and spas are offering even more curated packages for the ultimate VIP Oscar experience. More Reviews Film Review: 'My Extraordinary Summer With Tess' Film Review: 'Ghost Fleet' For the Jetsetter Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills’ Doheny Suite [...]

  • Rocketman

    See Taron Egerton Transform Into Elton John in New ‘Rocketman’ Trailer

    A new trailer for “Rocketman,” the Elton John “fantasy musical” in theaters May 31, was released today. As the singer, actor Taron Egerton (“Eddie the Eagle”) performs “Tiny Dancer” and is seen honing his talent at home, rising to fame and grappling with the pitfalls that superstardom can bring. The film also stars Jamie Bell (as John’s [...]

  • Matthew McConaughey White Boy Rick

    STX Buys Matthew McConaughey's Crime Drama 'Bush' for U.S.

    STXfilms has picked up U.S. rights to Matthew McConaughey’s British crime drama “Bush,” with Guy Ritchie directing and producing, for $7 million. More Reviews Film Review: 'My Extraordinary Summer With Tess' Film Review: 'Ghost Fleet' The project, formerly known as “Toff Guys,” also stars Hugh Grant, Colin Farrell, Charlie Hunnam, Henry Golding, and Michelle Dockery. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content