Mother's Day full movie review - Thinking of giving mom a ticket to "Mother's Day"? A nice card would be better.
Connections. Hollywood is all about connections ? connections among actors and filmmakers, connections among the characters in a film's story and, hopefully, a finished film connecting with its audience.
The comedy-drama "Mother's Day" (PG-13, 1:58) is a good example of all those kinds of connections. Director Garry Marshall's sister and fellow director, Penny, provides the film's opening narration and several of their relatives appear briefly in the film. This is the third "Special Day" ensemble comedy Garry Marshall has directed in less than a decade (after 2010's "Valentine's Day" and 2011's "New Year's Eve"). This movie co-stars Julia Roberts, whom Marshall previously directed in "Pretty Woman" (1990) and "Runaway Bride" (1999) and whose three children (Hazel, Phinneas and Henry) appear in this film. One of the character actors in "Mother's Day" is Hector Elizondo, who appeared in all 18 movies Marshall directed through 2016! Apart from the Garry Marshall connections, this is also the second time that Jennifer Aniston and Britt Robertson have been in the same film (after 2014's "Cake"), while characters played by Aniston and Jason Sudeikis make a romantic connection in this film, as their characters did in "We're the Millers" (2013) ? and this one is their fifth film together! Connections.
Like Marshall's previous two films, this one explores several different story lines, but the characters' stories in "Mother's Day" are more closely intertwined. Jesse (Kate Hudson) and Gabi (Sarah Chalke) are adult sisters who live next door to each other in suburban Atlanta and are both trying to hide the facts of their long-term relationships from their old-fashioned and closed-minded Texas mom and dad (Margo Martindale and Robert Pine). Jesse's parents strongly disapproved of her former boyfriend Russell (Aasif Mandvi) because he's from India, so Jesse told her parents that they broke up, and then married Russell. Gabi has told her parents that she's engaged to someone named Steve, while she's actually married to Max (Cameron Esposito), her female life-partner. Gabi talks to her parents on Skype, but Jesse tries to avoid talking to them altogether. The old folks would be shocked if they ever learned about either of their daughters' marriages ? let alone both ? especially if the revelations happened at the same time! Meanwhile, Sandy (Jennifer Aniston) is trying to cope with her divorce from Henry (Timothy Olyphant), his long-term relationship with the much younger Tina (Shay Mitchell, one of the few newbie adults in the cast) and how all this affects her relationship with her sons (Brandon Spink and Caleb Brown). At some of her more frustrated moments, Sandy keeps running into Bradley (Jason Sudeikis), the owner of a local gym who is still mourning the recent death of his Marine officer wife (Jennifer Garner) while doing his best to raise their tween daughters (Jessi Case and Ella Anderson). Sandy is friends with Jesse, through whom she meets Kristin (Britt Robertson) who has had a baby with Zack (Jack Whitehall), her live-in boyfriend and aspiring stand-up comedian (who's trying to impress a club owner played by Jon Lovitz), but she's hesitant to commit to marrying Zack due to abandonment issues stemming from her adoption as an infant. Sandy, by the way, is an interior designer, who is planning on proposing a new look for the studio set of Home Shopping Network maven Miranda (Julia Roberts, with Hector Elizondo playing her manager), but Miranda is occupied with her busy schedule ? and mommy issues of her own.
"Mother's Day" is a relatable but lackluster portrait of modern motherhood. Most Movie Fans will see themselves in at least one of the situations portrayed on screen, although the cast is strangely lacking in diversity. Screenwriters Tom Hines, Lilly Hollander and Anya Kochoff and Matthew Walker, who, as a group, have written an average of 1.25 produced screenplays each (including this one), do a good job of telling a variety of stories and weaving them together, but offer up relatively few laughs for a comedy. The film also features a subplot involving a wild Mother's Day parade float which would never be allowed in a Mother's Day parade (if there even were such a thing) and highly unlikely endings to some of the film's other plots and subplots.
Although the major characters are fully-drawn and well-performed, the minor characters come off more like one-dimensional caricatures. This film tries to do a little too much in its plotting, tries too hard to reach certain moments in its script and goes out of its way to marginalize characters who think differently about modern motherhood. It doesn't even do a good job at celebrating the holiday of its title, which is something else connecting this film with its immediate predecessors. So? why do so many big-name stars want to work with Marshall? What? Other the fact that he's a legend in the entertainment business? "Happy Days" and "Laverne & Shirley" and "Mork & Mindy" and all those fun films from the 1990s and early 2000s? C'mon! All I'd be asking is "Who do I have to kill?" Just killing. I meant kidding! Kidddding! Kidding.
I started this review by talking about connections, so let's finish with a few more. All three of Garry Marshall's "Special Day" movies have earned less than 20% positive reviews from critics and less than 55% from audiences on RottenTomatoes.com, while all three currently have an IMDb.com rating in the 5.0 ? 5.9 range (out of 10). On the other hand, "Valentine's Day" and "New Year's Eve" each more than quadrupled its budget when domestic and overseas box office numbers are combined. Whether or not "Mother's Day" carries that connection forward, and even though I enjoyed some stories, moments, and characters in the film, I can't quite recommend it. "C"