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Mother’s Day Review

By  · Published on May 2nd, 2016

Mother’s Day is a Strong Contender for Worst Film of 2016

Pretty Woman director Garry Marshall’s latest is ugly, crass and unintentionally makes a strong case against Mother’s Day.

Too bad the title “This Is Not A Film” is already claimed by Jafar Panahi’s 2011 masterpiece. It would otherwise be a perfect fit for Garry Marshall’s latest stab at turning another beloved holiday into a hideous stage, hosting caricature characters doing offensive things in altogether revolting situations. Mother’s Day, Marshall’s follow up to significantly more watchable (if you can imagine) Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve, cannot be called “a film” by anyone with a good conscience. A hodgepodge of irrelevant (at best) and nonsensical (mostly) storylines with absurd dialogues, Mother’s Day lands somewhere between a mean joke and a cinematic WTF, assembled to alarmingly play at every potential “mommy issue” one can (and can’t) imagine. As a (non)film that ultimately aims to charm and inspire by celebrating motherly love, it leaves you with an aftereffect that is anything but. This 118 minutes of unintentional horror disguised as comedy (119 minutes too long) is full of analogies as inept and borderline creepy as comparing a clown’s endless hanky to a mother’s endless love for her kids. You think I’m being too harsh? Well, I’m barely scratching the surface.

Now that the big ugly picture is more or less off of my chest, let’s take a closer look at Mother’s Day’s various characters and what they are up to in Atlanta, GA (sincere apologies in advance). Sandy (Jennifer Aniston) and Henry (Timothy Olyphant) are happily divorced and co-parent two young sons. When Henry announces he has something important to say to Sandy in the beginning of the film, we can sniff from a mile away that he’ll announce his marriage to a young woman with killer looks, but Sandy somehow thinks he’ll want to get back together with her. So does her friend Jesse (Kate Hudson), who is happily married to Russell (Aasif Mandvi), lives next door to her happily married lesbian sister Gabi (Sarah Chalke) and is in no position to give anyone relationship advice involving diamond ring upgrades. You see; Sandy routinely lies to her racist and homophobic parents Flo and Earl (Margo Martindale, tragically a part of this freak show and Robert Pine, whose only trick is sucking on a fried chicken drumstick for extended periods of time) about her husband’s heritage. She also lies to her husband about her parents’ whereabouts and background. Meanwhile, Bradley (Jason Sudeikis) is a gym owner and single bro-dad of two young girls, who’s lost his marine wife (Jennifer Garner, in a cameo) some time ago and is surely destined to hit it big with Sandy. (Warning: the scene where Jason Sudeikis’ head awkwardly and creepily emerges from behind his wife’s gravestone is the stuff of nightmares.) Miranda (Julia Roberts, wearing an inexplicably bad, Donald Trump-colored wig, poorly mirroring Anna Wintour) is a jewelry designer and TV personality of a home shopping network. Kristin (Britt Robertson) is a bartender with abandonment issues (hey, her words, not mine) and parents a baby with Zack (Jack Whitehall)- the good-natured stand-up comedian who can’t seem to convince Kristin to marry him. (Because, you guessed it, she has abandonment issues.) In a “surprise” turn of events, we find out that she is Miranda’s daughter. Hilarity (or more appropriately, horror) ensues when Kristin faces Miranda, Earl and Flo surprise their daughters with a visit, and Sandy and Bradley meet at a supermarket checkout line, sharing a warm and fuzzy conversation involving tampons.

You might think all of this seems like a benign chain of silly, harmless circumstances. But be assured that Mother’s Day manages the impossible and finds various ways to evoke disgust and shamelessly offend with casually sexist references and crass, racist jokes in an ill-administered attempt to be inclusive of all peoples and backgrounds. From Flo’s accidental Skype chat with Russell’s Indian mother -who warmly embraces the “ultimately good-hearted” Flo’s racist joke that includes the word “sand” (don’t make me spell out the joke for you)- to the Atlanta police falsely (and, uh, “hilariously”) profiling Russell as a potential criminal (only to realize he is a respectable doctor, not defined by the color of his skin), Mother’s Day seems to have no idea what decade this is and what it is supposed to say about race relations. It is perhaps no surprise, because it doesn’t seem to have the slightest clue on what to say about motherhood and families either. I desperately kept searching Mother’s Day for a faint glimmer of charm or occasional wisdom that would at least justify this (non) film’s existence, but all I got was a cringe-worthy Jennifer Garner karaoke, bad song cues, worse puns (as in “parade of vaginas”) and a nagging suspicion that all of these fine actors lost a bet to Garry Marshall and had no choice but star in his latest flick.

As Robert Pine’s Earl would say, Sweet Jumpin’ Jesus.

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Freelance writer and film critic based in New York. Bylines at Film Journal, Time Out NY, Movie Mezzanine, Indiewire, and others.