Christmas comes early in Bad Moms 2 with the return of the fun-seeking, booze-loving ‘Bad Moms’ trio as they struggle to survive both the festive period and their own mothers.
The first thing to clear up is that regardless of what title your local cinema has decided to use, there is no escaping that this is a Christmas movie. Right from the opening shot – there is tinsel and baubles firmly setting the scene for the next 104 minutes of Christmas tree drama, carol-singing competitions and characters adorned in festive-themed pyjamas and of course, the all-important family-oriented message.
The story picks up from the first film with the return of the three outrageous ‘Bad Moms’, who have to tackle the demands and pressures placed on them to make Christmas perfect. Added to their already busy and stressful lives is the arrival of their own mothers, who each have their personal and often conflicting approach to motherhood, including the best way to celebrate the festive period.
Newly divorced-mom Amy (Mila Kunis) is facing the first Christmas for her two children without their father, along with the imminent arrival of her overbearing, perfectionist mother (Christine Baranski). Feeling overwhelmed, she turns to her loyal friends Kiki (Kristen Bell) and Carla (Kathryn Hahn) for support, which turns into a drinking session at the food court and their declaration to ‘take Christmas back’. However, their resolution to not get sucked into all the media expectations that come with this holiday becomes largely forgotten when all three moms are tested by the arrival of their own mothers, who have an uncanny ability to unsettle their daughters’ plans.
Family-focused and naïve, Kiki struggles to deal with the arrival of her clingy widowed mother Sandy (Cheryl Hines), whose lack of boundaries and emotional manipulation tests her relationship with her own children and husband. Wild, foul-mouthed Carla returns with her own unique mothering style, but the unexpected arrival of her own mother (Susan Sarandon) brings to light her issues with abandonment and the loneliness experienced as a single mom at Christmas.
The Christmas theme is a clever way to establish a sequel and organically introduce the ‘grandmoms’ into the melodrama of the festive season. It also provides the perfect setting for the mother-daughter message, which could have felt overly saccharin outside of this context. The portrayal of the pressures of Christmas is at times over the top, but entirely acceptable as it is in the pursuit of comedy and entertainment.
Like the first film, the drama is solely presented from the female perspective, with all the responsibility of creating a picture-perfect Christmas falling on the moms’ overburdened shoulders. The opposite sex is confined solely to supportive and comedy roles, or providing eye candy – in this case in the form of a Santa stripper competition. Only Amy’s father (Peter Gallagher) has a more meaningful role, by offering insight and the final Christmas message about the real reason for feeling the need to succumb to the pressures of the season.
The writer-director duo, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (The Hangover, 21 & Over) both return for this sequel, which ensures that Bad Moms 2 has a very similar tone and feel for fans of the original. One criticism returning fans may have is that the moms’ bad behaviour takes more of a back seat, with the focus shifting to explore their complicated relationships with their own mothers. The additional characters are well-cast and add both comedy and drama while keeping the story fresh and evolving. The Bad Moms franchise again offers an interesting insight into society and conventions, but the opportunity to offer any meaningful solution is missed in the pursuit of frivolity.
The plot, while at times ridiculous, has plenty of genuinely funny and frequently R-rated moments supported by great comedic skills from the entire cast. The stripper storyline adds little to the plot and felt like an excuse to provide the predominately female audience with scenes of topless men gyrating. However, with a high gag rate, it is easy to get lost in the glossiness and silliness of the film and forgive its all-too neatly resolved outcome.
Bad Moms 2 is like Christmas – everything is a bit too bright and brash and it will ultimately leave you feeling a bit sickly, but at the time you will enjoy almost every minute of it and be starting a countdown until the next one!
The film was announced on December 23, 2016, just two months after Bad Moms (2016) finished its theatrical run in the United States. Only 15 months separate the release dates of the original film and its sequel.