We have bad santas, bad grandpas, bad neighbours and bad teachers. Prefacing ‘bad’ in front of any one of these examples usually turns on crass, misbehaved wannabes who get back at those who mistreated them with ill-guided but hilarious results. The sequel to the 2016 movie takes on a Christmas feel that’s straight out of the oven and served up for the next course of women behaving badly. Stylised tropes of the overworked, young mother is embodied in Mila Kunis’ Amy, Kristen Bell is the stay-at-home Kiki and Katherine Hahn’s promiscuous Carla all work in tandem and represent the best and worst aspects of the modern family.
As expected, seeing 40 something women bond over their love of being underappreciated and underrepresented is charming enough to hold a good story but not sappy enough that it becomes It’s A Wonderful Life. Acknowledging that women in this bracket hold their own at the box office is particularly important for our time, especially given that the main conflict here is their own mothers and not romantic pursuits. Veteran of the screen Christine Baranski is as formidable as she is humourous, polishing the stiff perfectionist in sharp contrast to Susan Sarandon’s loveable junkie persona. Cheryl Hines comes on board as the reminder that family ties are important but not at the expense of being overbearing. Wanda Sykes hammers this point very well in a rewarding yet brief cameo as a relationship counsellor.
Together the ensemble reheat the premise of “having had enough,” only to retreat into submission again by the second third of the movie. Merry montages and adages to the festive season act as sweet filler, yet motifs of fractured families are watered down by the overall shenanigans of these mothers who know they can’t have it all yet insist on doing so anyway. Comedically, there are plenty of Mumisms that will even resonate with the opposite gender so that they are not left completely excluded for the screening.
Like an ugly sweater, it’s a movie that is very much suited to this time of the year yet has enough thread to keep it together until the last bon bon.