Bad Moms was a sleeper hit of 2016 and when the film hit DVD, I found out why. Rather than just another raunchy R-rated comedy featuring women instead of men, the film had a great deal of sympathy for its beleaguered trio of mothers played by Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Kathryn Hahn. The jokes were definitely funny, but it felt like writers/directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore had taken the time to come up with tangible situations and worthwhile conflicts rather than going generic and loading up on filthy language. The film was charming as it was foul-mouthed, and now 18 months later we have A Bad Moms Christmas, which uses the holiday season as a springboard to have the original trio square off against their own mothers. While it doesn’t feel as tight at the original, it’s still an enjoyable ride and a worthwhile R-rated holiday comedy.
Set in the week leading up to Christmas, we follow Amy (Kunis), Kiki (Bell), and Carla (Hahn) dealing with the normal stress of the holiday only to have that stress compounded when their mothers Ruth (Christine Baranski), Sandy (Cheryl Hines), and Isis (Susan Sarandon), respectively, drop in unannounced. Ruth is hyper-critical of Amy and won’t accept the laid-back Christmas her daughter wants; the cheerful Sandy refuses to give her daughter any breathing room; and Isis is blowing through town to borrow money from Carla that she’ll never pay back. The original trio is torn between trying to have a fun Christmas holiday and fending off their own mothers.
The original Bad Moms has a pretty straightforward plot—Amy feels the need to be perfect, she butts heads with the head of the PTA, and is able to rally all the other moms who feel unappreciated and overstressed by the demands the world places on them. A Bad Moms Christmas doesn’t really have a plot as much as a collection of amusing scenes that take place during the week leading up to Christmas. A scene with Kiki and Sandy getting family therapy doesn’t move anything along, but it’s fun to watch Bell and Hines bounce off each other with Wanda Sykes playing the therapist. A scene where Carla waxes the balls of an affable male stripper (Justin Hartley) doesn’t add to the other plotlines, but it’s hard to argue when the scene is so funny and surprisingly sweet.
And just existing as a funny, surprisingly sweet movie is where A Bad Moms Christmas lives. Perhaps if they hadn’t tried to get this sequel out ASAP they could have come up with a tighter plot, but to be fair, no one is really coming to a Bad Moms movie for the story. They’re coming for the jokes and the characters, and that’s where the film delivers. The original trio is just as strong, and their moms make a case for having their own spinoff movie. Baranski is a force of nature who owns the picture the moment she breezes in, Hines is delightful, and Sarandon isn’t bad either.
Comedy sequels are tough. Wait too long and you get Bad Santa 2. Try to cash in too quickly and you get The Hangover Part II. The best option is trying to do something completely different, and to its credit, A Bad Moms Christmas finds the sweet spot of staying true to the original characters while adding in new dimension that may not be entirely original (Daddy’s Home 2 is basically doing the same thing in a couple weeks), but works well enough. A Bad Moms Christmas may not have enough going on to become a holiday classic, but it’s certainly an enjoyable enough diversion from the madness of the holiday season.