One would think that getting the opportunity to make three movies using the same format might inspire a filmmaker to hone the technique along the way, but nope. Not director Garry Marshall. He seems perfectly content with delivering a new movie that’s just as trite, mawkish, painfully unfunny and manipulative as Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve.
Similar to those two films, Mother’s Day features four interconnecting stories. There’s Jason Sudeikis as Henry, a guy trying to raise his two daughters by himself after his wife passes. We’ve also got Jennifer Aniston as Sandy, a mother of two boys who struggles with the fact that her ex (Timothy Olyphant) married a much younger woman. There’s also Kate Hudson’s Jesse who avoids her parents because they don’t approve of her interracial marriage, and Britt Robertson as Kristin, a new mother in the process of tracking down her own birth mother.
The movie is as uninspired as they come. It’s a predictable paint-by-numbers script packed with dated jokes, contrived slapstick humor, insultingly unrealistic family drama and sets that are as fake as Ikea displays. The performances are serviceable, but they all reek of the bare minimum. The script certainly isn’t doing the actors any favors, but the fact that no one brings any nuance to his or her role makes the material even more unbearable.
The only cast member who manages to sell her character as a real person isn’t a headliner, but rather a young newcomer, Jessi Case who steps in as Rachel, Henry’s eldest daughter. The character is bogged down by clichés that come with being a young woman raised by a single father in a broad comedy, but she’s got the chemistry with Sudeikis and the natural charisma to make it work. And sadly, that’s the only element of the film that could be described as natural.
Sudeikis, Aniston and Hudson are prime to portray likable leads, but likable shouldn’t mean perfect, especially because without character flaws, Mother’s Day is just two hours of watching pretty rich people breeze through their problems. Sandy’s big issue, for example, is that she doesn’t want to let Tina (Shay Mitchell) into her sons’ lives. But who can blame her for being hesitant to welcome her ex-husband’s new wife into the family with open arms? Making that conflict even more uninteresting is the fact that, besides being young and beautiful, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with Tina. She genuinely wants to be a warm, loving, responsible stepmother. Rather than dig into what makes them unique mothers, Marshall resorts to showing their differences using tired jokes like Sandy being “too old” for Twitter.
Hudson finds herself in a similar position as Jesse. She’s living happily ever after in a quaint suburban neighborhood with her loving husband and young son. It’s her parents who need to come to accept that she’s married to an Indian man and the movie reduces that conundrum to a series of thoughtless, silly and borderline offensive race jokes. Then we’ve got Julia Roberts and that nightmare of a wig. She plays Miranda Collins, top talent over at the Home Shopping Network who chose her career over raising her daughter. That should be rich territory to explore, especially because who hasn’t had to choose between personal and professional obligations before? But Mother’s Day doesn’t really go beyond that one sentence description of Miranda’s predicament. Her changes of heart are all happenstance, unsupported and meaningless.
Making matters worse, the storylines don’t come together well. It’s more like characters from different segments just pop up every so often out of obligation. On top of missing the mark in terms of narrative crossover, Marshall also has an impossible time transitioning from one scene to another. The jumps happen too often and too quick, and they do absolutely nothing for the big picture, almost as if the filmmakers didn’t give any thought to the overall plot progression and pacing.
But worst of all, Marshall completely misses the point of making a movie about Mother’s Day. Yes, each segment does address parenting, but none hit home in a way that makes you want to call your own mother to tell her how much you love and appreciate her. Instead, we’re watching nonsense like Aniston walking around in a towel for no reason – because that’s what the target audience of Mother’s Day came to see.