Mother’s Day splits it attention between four intertwined plotlines. Sandy (Jennifer Aniston) is feeling some jealousy when her ex-husband Henry (Timothy Olyphant) suddenly announces that he’s getting remarried. And she has trouble with the idea of sharing her two kids with Henry’s new wife. Sisters Jesse and Gabi (Kate Hudson and Sarah Chalke) have been hiding secrets from their very conservative parents, who surprise them by showing up in their neighborhood. Bradley (Jason Sudeikis) is struggling to raise his two daughters in the wake of their mother’s death. And Kristin (Britt Robertson) has a child with comedian Zack (Jack Whitehall), but feels hesitant to marry him until she deals with a very deep personal issue.
And as the title suggests, this all takes place around Mother’s Day. The previous holiday-themed films from director Garry Marshall were pretty mediocre, but they did revolve around holidays full of incident. Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve are pretty eventful days that people ascribe with plenty of meaning. Mother’s Day offers the same mediocrity around a holiday that doesn’t usually involve more than a token gift and a bouquet of flowers. Motherhood has never really been represented well by this terribly artificial holiday, and this movie doesn’t really do any better.
The movie delivers broadly drawn stories that offer little in the way of suspense. The film telegraphs the lessons that these characters are going to learn from minute one. Of course Sandy is going to learn to get along with her ex’s new wife. Of course Jesse and Gabi are going to patch things up with their parents. Of course Bradley is going to finally move on from mourning his wife. And of course Kristin to deal with her stuff and decide to marry Zack. Normally these would be spoilers, but the movie just doesn’t do anything to make these plot points feel anything other than inevitable.
Now, being predictable isn’t the worst thing in the world, but a film ought to try to make the journey to the inevitable a little interesting. But the film feels really dated. There’s a point in here where Bradley freaks out over having to buy tampons. That joke would have felt old in the 80s, and it feels positively ancient in 2016. Dramatically, things aren’t really any better, the characters spelling out their trauma in the broadest terms possible. At one point, Kristin actually says out loud to another character, “I have abandonment issues.” This is one of the clearest, most painful examples of a movie telling, and not showing.
It might also be pointed out that while the film takes place in Atlanta, a city that is 54% African-American, the movie doesn’t seem to have any room for non-white leads. And while it would be excessive to call the film’s humor racist, it does have moments where it feels completely out of touch. The cast contains some really big names, but nobody really survives the awfulness of the script. As great as Jennifer Aniston or Jason Sudeikis might be at selling bad lines, they still come off badly in the end.
Mother’s Day doesn’t feel like a movie from 2016. The trappings are there, certainly: there are mentions of Twitter and Instagram, and characters Skype with each other. There’s even a gay couple in it. But at its core, this movie has a tired, old heart. Its stories and its jokes are dreadfully stale. The movie, much like the holiday itself, feels like an empty obligation; a piece of dreadfully commercial work that seeks to capitalize on feelings that should be felt every day of the year.