Worst Holiday Film Since Director Garry Marshall’s Last Holiday-Themed Film, Or The One Before That…
DIRECTOR: GARRY MARSHALL/2016
Garry Marshall is definitely the king of sweet when it comes to films. Here is a list of some of his greatest hits: Overboard, Beaches, Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride, and The Princess Diaries (Parts 1 & 2). Each of these films shared his signature style of touching moments and sticky sweet sentiment dripping from every frame. Throw in a hit song or two and he was bankable for the safe rom-com crowd who didn’t mind sacrificing quality for the generally feel-good emotions they had when seeing one of his films. Then, Garry decided to embark on a new direction: holiday-themed ensemble rom-coms.
His last three films all fall into this new sub-genre of his ever expanding catalogue. First there was Valentine’s Day. Look at this cast: Jessica Alba, Kathy Bates, Jessica Biel, Bradley Cooper, Patrick Dempsey, Hector Elizondo, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Topher Grace, Anne Hathaway, Ashton Kutcher, Queen Latifah, Taylor Lautner, George Lopez, Shirley MacLaine, Julia Roberts, and even Taylor Swift. It was the ultimate rom-com! Until it was seen. Terrible film.
His second film in this “series” was New Year’s Eve. This included a cast of: Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert DeNiro, Zac Efron, Halle Berry, Cary Elwes, Alyssa Milano, Common, Jessica Biel, Seth Myers, Katherine Heigl, Jon Bon Jovi, Sophia Vergara, Ashton Kutcher, Lea Michelle, James Belushi, Sarah Jessica Parker, Abigail Breslin, Ryan Seacrest, and even Penny Marshall. It was now the ultimate rom-com! Until it was seen. This film was even worse than Valentine’s Day. It didn’t even make back its budget in its U.S. release.
Despite these diminishing marginal returns, the studios still seem convinced that Garry can deliver a hit. I mean, this is the man who gave us Pretty Woman and two decades of Julia Roberts, America’s sweetheart! Surely, we could make this work. So they brainstormed and came to a shocking conclusion: “what if we make a 3rd holiday-themed film?” “You mean a trilogy?” “Kinda….that’s all the rage”.
Look, the third time is not the charm when the first two films failed at almost every level. Now Garry Marshall brings us Mother’s Day. Like the previous two, this is ensemble cast overload: a double shot of America’s sweethearts in Julia Roberts and Jennifer Aniston! Also Hector Elizondo, Kate Hudson, Sarah Chalke, Jennifer Garner, Jon Lovitz, Timothy Olyphant, Britt Robertson, and Jason Sudeikis.
Despite another large ensemble, this one not only fails, it crashes and burns!
The first two “holiday films” were scribed by Katherine Fugate. Now, she is gone, and they have brought in 4 writers to trim down the number of competing story lines in an effort to focus the narrative and maximize the investment we should have in these characters. Unfortunately, the opposite of this intention has happened. I think that these writers, and Katherine Fugate before them, saw Love Actually and genuinely loved it. In an effort to make their own version of a rom-com where multiple storylines weave in and out, they’ve left out every good thing that made Love Actually a successful version of what they are trying to do. In this case, imitation is not a sincere form of flattery.
This is simply mind-numbingly bad. I even brought my mother to the screening and she couldn’t muster a sincere praise. And it doesn’t help that this film clocks in at nearly 2 hours. You will be counting the minutes from the opening frames.
If you want an actual critique, then here are a few. First, in an effort to reach out to every possible mother demographic, the film manages to become nothing more than a litmus test for some imaginary checklist that hopes to address every angle of motherhood. The result is that Mother’s Dayundermines all of the angles it hopes to lift up with cheap laughs at the expense of the worst of the stereotypes that are in the public arena.
Represented in the film is the divorcee mother (Aniston) who is trying to move on and deal with her ex-husband hooking up with a girl so young, she’s practically a child. There is the girl who grew up an orphan (Robertson) and wants to know her real mom, while dealing with the fear of raising her own child. There is the double-issue mom who, along with her husband, are seen to be backwards-thinking traditionalists who can’t deal with their daughter having dated a man from India (racists remarks abound. They actually call him a “towel-head” for laughs????), and will surely lose it when they find out their other daughter (Chalke) who they believe is engaged to an accountant named Steve, is actually a lesbian who is married to a woman named Max. There is the widower (Sudeikis) whose military wife (Garner) has died, and he is having to deal with his children’s need for their mother….including the old standby….having to go to the store to buy tampons for his daughter.
Secondly, everything in this film is cliche, flat, offensive, boring, and tedious. It is lazy in its execution and all of these things are what undermines the messages it is trying to convey. The good news is that it still has the trademark sweetness Garry Marshall is known for. It’s so sweet, in fact, that you might fall into a sugar induced film-type diabetic coma…even though that isn’t even a real thing.
Avoid this film at all costs. And whatever you do, DO NOT bring your mother to this garbage. It will only send the signal to her that you do not love her, which is the opposite message we should be trying to send.
Let’s just hope that Garry Marshall doesn’t try to further this series of holiday-themed films. Let’s also hope that he doesn’t take this idea or holiday-based series to the next level and do the hip young-adult fiction based films marketing ploy of breaking the last installment into 2 parts. We can’t survive another one of these….let alone 2.