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Movie of the Day: Mom’s Night Out (2014)

31 Aug

MomsNightOut

There are no laughs in Moms’ Night Out.  None.  Nada.  Zilch.  Zero.  Bupkis.  Maybe there’s a smile, but that’s not exactly high praise.  When you can say that about a comedy, it pretty much empties out the entire picture.  Here’s a movie in which the only comic highpoint is a shout-out to Pinterest – it does them no favors.

The directors here are The Erwin Brothers whose apparent goal is to bring the kind of Hangover-style antics to a Christian-based audience without all the immoral filth. It’s a nice gesture, but in restraining the comedy their movie comes off like a limp sitcom pilot – the kind that doesn’t get picked up. With this, and last year’s anti-abortion misfire October Baby, it is clear that the Erwin Brothers need to work on the filmmaking before they try to send a message.  This time they’ve made a low-impact comedy so generic that it might as well have come stamped with a barcode.

The story deals with three mothers whose mental states have reached a boiling point. Primary is Allyson (Sarah Drew from “Grey’s Anatomy”) a frustrated ball of neurosis who is surrounded by three kids that are driving her insane. It is clear that she needs some time to herself, but her moods are so animated and manic that a reasonable person might suggest a Zoloft.  The movie, however, suggests that all of her problems can be solved by a dose of Vitamin Jesus.

At her side is her loving, but immature husband Sean (Sean Astin) a well-meaning Joe whose obsession with video games is not helping his wife’s mental state.  Much more grounded in the adult work are Allyson’s two BFF’s. There’s Izzy (Andrea Logan White), her childhood friend whose husband Marco (Robert Amaya) is a wimp with a pathological fear of luchadores, bikers and his own children (that’s suppose to be funny). And there’s Sondra (Patricia Heaton), a good-hearted, pressed-and-polished pastor’s wife who is dealing with a budding teenage daughter who comes home with a revealing denim skirt that would embarrass Miley Cyrus.

The connective tissue of these women is that they’re being driven mad by their off-spring and by the grown children that they call husbands. They decide that they need a night off from Mommy-hood, which sounds reasonable except that the husbands promptly lose the children, leading to a long series of boring slapstick scenes that climax in an arrest at which time we get some come-to-Jesus emotional pep talk about how wonderful it is to be parent. The mother’s night out is simply one of those Murphy’s Law situations that starts with a snafu over dinner reservations and ends with a police car chase down the interstate. It steals and pillages every Bad Night Out movie from The Blues Brothers to The Hangover to After Hours to Adventures in Babysitting to Date Night. Yet, this movie is a whimper in the company of those films. It tries nothing new and goes no place fast.

That wouldn’t be so bad if the comedy were based on well-written characters. All of the characters are written as caricatures. The women are shrewish nags who are never seen relating to their children – they’re more of an annoyance. The men are seen as irresponsible over-grown children who can’t take care of their off-spring for one night without a child being abandoned at a tattoo parlor. The message: mother’s stay home because your men are incompetent.

Even at a technical level, this movie flops over and dies. The cutesy-poo musical score twists and winds around the comic dialogue like a feux laugh-track before an emotional moment in which the emo-music twists even harder. We’re led by the ears to how we’re supposed to feel.

And yet, even that isn’t the worst thing about this movie. It was filmed last year in Birmingham, Alabama – my home – but it is only a backdrop. We see fly-overs that include glimpses of Vulcan, the Harbert Building, City Federal, Birmingham Southern College and various sites downtown. The car chase take place on 2nd Avenue South. Yet, no one ever mentions Birmingham or any of its landmarks. The city isn’t celebrated at all, nor is it ever mentioned by name. It might as well take place in generic town anywhere in the world. You might hope for some kind of loving tribute that does for Birmingham what Ferris Beuller’s Day Off did for Chicago. That movie, which is also about three friends who take some time off, was first and foremost about characters. It loved its characters, its dialogue and its city. Moms’ Night Out is a pitiful shadow of an idea. John Hughes, where are you when we need you?

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