Mother’s Day **

A dull comedy that’s innocuous, for the most part.

Is it worth $10? No

How does one review a movie like “Mother’s Day”? It’s so optimistic, eager to please, and wholly lacking in cynicism that complaining about it feels kind of like kicking a puppy. But then you realize that it’s also lazy, stupid, and sometimes even offensive. To heck with it, while kicking is out of the question, this puppy still soiled the rug, so at least a light slap is in order.

“Mother’s Day” isn’t a sequel, though it is part of director Garry Marshall’s “Day” movies, with “Valentine’s Day” and “New Years Day” preceding it. All three movies are basically “The Love Boat” in movie form. Like that “classic” from the ‘80s, they feature a huge cast intermixed with young, rising stars (Britt Robertson), character actors whose faces you recognize immediately but whose names don’t come so easily (Margo Martindale), and stars who are household names, but whose popularity is not what it once was (Julia Roberts and Jennifer Aniston). These cast members are then compartmentalized into their own plotlines that revolve around the film’s title and that intersect in usual and unusual ways (though mostly usual).

Mr. Marshall has had a long, varied, and successful career in Hollywood, for which he deserves respect. He wrote episodes of classic sitcoms like “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and created “Happy Days.” His work as a director, though, is a bit erratic, and that’s being generous. He’s made enduring comedies like “Pretty Woman,” but he’s also made utter garbage like the offensive “The Other Sister.” The chances then of this movie being any good were nebulous at best. But I still went in hoping to be pleasantly surprised.

And I wasn’t, but the movie does have its positives. The cast is game and seems to be having fun, and that fun translates into a genial tone. There are also a few chuckle inducing moments sprinkled here and there, so I would be lying if I said I didn’t laugh once. I’m pretty sure I laughed at least…twice.

Lastly, while it easily could have made some of the characters simple bad guys, Marshall and crew resist that impulse. One plotline involving Jennifer Aniston and Timothy Olyphant as exes that still get along starts out with Olyphant squinting and smirking so incessantly I immediately pegged him as the film’s villain. Though his acting in those early scenes is ill advised, I was pleased to find out that neither he nor his new young bride were made into antagonists.

But the accolades stop there. Most of the movie is harmless, but there’s one storyline that’s offensive and unacceptable. A pair of racist, Texan parents (the usually reliable Margo Martindale and Robert Pine, obnoxiously over-the-top) don’t know that one of their daughters (Sarah Chalke) is gay and that the other (Kate Hudson) is married to a man of Indian descent (Aasif Mandvi), when they drop in on them unannounced. It’s a storyline a light film like this isn’t equipped to handle and boy does it handle it miserably, culminating with a tasteless scene in which we’re expected to laugh when the father calls their daughter’s husband a “towelhead.” Yuck.

But, for the most part, the movie is just dull. It’s overstuffed with thin, uninteresting characters and simplistic story lines lifted from bad sitcoms, all wrapped in a running time that skirts the two-hour mark, and that lethal combination killed any good will I had towards it long before the movie was over. It’s so long, in fact, that at one point, I almost panicked. The banality of it all overcame me, and I wanted out of the theater immediately. Looking back at my notes, I wrote, “THIS IS SO DULL!”, which is something I didn’t even do for such milquetoast classics as “The Boss” and “Daddy’s Home.” 

I’m not predisposed to hate movies like this. There’s a place for sweet films with no more of an agenda than to relax the audience and be pleasant. On the one hand, “Mother’s Day” checks those boxes, and I’m sure the audience that wants to see this movie will be satisfied. But I can’t simply ignore the other hand, which is the laziness and stupidity with which some of the film is written. While there’s nothing wrong with a nice, happy film, we deserve one that is better than this.

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