An uneven script and too many new, superfluous characters make Bad Moms 2 just plain bad.
The first Bad Moms managed to greatly exceed box office expectations last year, and despite its cookie-cutter premise and execution it turned out to still be an enjoyable time at the movies. Most of that was thanks to the strong chemistry between its three leads, Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and a standout Kathryn Hahn, with the three women cast as the titular bad moms looking for some kind of escape from their chaotic daily routines. So it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that a sequel was fast-tracked, or that it’s been packaged as both a follow-up to the first and a Christmas-themed comedy.
For what it’s worth too, the film’s holiday setting does help to give it a slightly different energy than the first. But like many other sequels that have come before it, A Bad Moms Christmas makes the classic mistake of thinking the addition of several new characters and subplots is the same thing as building off of the first film’s story in any meaningful way. While those new additions come in the form of talented veteran stars like Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines, Susan Sarandon, and Peter Gallagher, the film’s decision to shift the focus away from the relationship of its original three women to their tattered bonds with their even worse mothers results in a disappointingly uneven and scattershot comedy.
Set fairly soon after the events of the first film, A Bad Moms Christmas begins when Amy (Kunis), Kiki (Bell), and Carla (Hahn) each find themselves becoming gradually overwhelmed by the deluge of responsibilities and errands that all moms must endure during the annual holiday season. However, their plans to take back Christmas for themselves – which comes in the initial form of a drunken shoplifting spree and other general, blatant bad behavior – are derailed by the arrivals of their mothers.
Each of the older mothers end up possessing similar traits as their daughters, though they’ve been upped to some ridiculous levels here. Baranski leads the trio as the snobby, pushy, and passive-aggressive mother to Kunis’ Amy, while the ridiculously over-attached relationship of Hines’ character Sandy with Kiki is the least funny gimmick that the film has to offer. By the time that she begins wearing Christmas sweaters with Kiki’s face on them and making up different diseases she might have to guilt Kiki into letting her stay, you’re not only annoyed by her but ready for the film to just move on.
Sarandon’s Isis – yes they do make several obvious jokes about that name choice – rounds out the three new leads when she shows up in Carla’s driveway suddenly for the first time in three years. Her daughter wisely assumes that she’s only come back to ask for more money, which Isis doesn’t even completely deny, but the film works to steadily bring them together through a variety of equally-contrived sequences.
Out of the three, Baranski gets the most to do as Ruth, a woman so scarred by the toxic relationship she had with her own mother that she deems it necessary to make sure anything and everything Amy does for her family is “perfect.” At first, Ruth and Amy’s banter leads to some genuinely funny scenes between Kunis and Baranski, but as the older mother’s antics get increasingly more selfish and destructive to her daughter’s morale, it becomes practically impossible to care or feel bad for Ruth in any way whatsoever.
As with the first one, Kathryn Hahn manages to be the standout player in the film’s ensemble. Carla not only has some of the only entertaining solo scenes in the film, but she’s also instrumental in some of its best comedic moments – including a slow-motion dodgeball fight between all the film’s parental and kid characters that comes at the end of an already entertaining sequence set within a SkyZone trampoline park. From using her son as a human meat shield to employing dirty tactics to try and beat him in a jousting competition, Hahn’s performance ensures that even Carla’s more predictable antics are funnier than they have any right to be.
But not even Hahn’s onscreen presence is enough to keep A Bad Moms Christmas afloat at all times, and the film suffers from far too many boring stretches where the clichéd plotting gets in the way of there being any actual comedic moments. So unlike with the first film, which was cohesively held together by the bond of its main three characters, co-writers and directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore prove they’ve bitten off more than they can chew with this sequel.