FilmDrunk

‘Mother’s Day,’ As Recreated Via Its Scathing Reviews

If you read as many movie reviews as we do, you know that nothing brings out the urge to summarize in critics like a bad movie. Part of the reason for that is that when a movie is bad, no one really cares if they spoil it. Corollary to that:  sometimes a movie is so bad that simple summary is more damning than analysis.

It was this phenomenon that first inspired Plot Recreated With Reviews, a feature in which I attempt to retell a movie I haven’t seen, using only carefully curated quotes from reviews. It tends to work better the lamer the movie is, and this week seems to offer an ideal target: Mother’s Day, hopefully the last of a dying breed of star-studded, interconnected-storyline-constructed Love Actually clones. This one was directed by Garry Marshall, he of New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day.

It promises to be about… uh, mother’s day, and… mothers. And it’s currently tracking 7% on RottenTomatoes. That’s probably all you need to know.

THE INTRO

The movie, opening about a week before Mother’s Day, consists of interlocking stories that start a week before Mother’s Day and follows three moms (played by Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson and Britt Robertson); two grandmoms (Margo Martindale and Julia Roberts) and one Mister Mom (Jason Sudeikis) (The Wall Street Journal).

In the first few minutes: perky pop song over the opening credits, hokey voiceover, people rushing through morning routines (no one is ever on time in these comedies), ill-advised dialogue (when a woman chides her young son for not wearing underwear, he replies, exasperated: “It’s called free balling, Mom!”). (The Hollywood Reporter

After a brief voiceover… (Variety)

“Ahh, Mother’s Day” sighs the opening narration… (Indiewire)

…from a never-seen character (Penny Marshall) about the daily struggles of motherhood, we’re introduced to an unwieldy cast of upper-class moms in the Atlanta area. (Variety)

THE PLAYERS

Jennifer Aniston plays Sandy, a divorced mom of two boys who has hopes of getting back together with her rakishly handsome ex Henry (Timothy Olyphant) — until Henry tells Sandy he recently got married to the twentysomething bombshell Tina (Shay Mitchell)… (The Chicago Sun-Times)

…a gorgeous young woman (Shay Mitchell) she calls a “tween”. Not only is she young, but Sandy’s boys seem to love her. (Examiner.com)

She wears shorts and thigh-high boots around the house, as one does. (The Seattle Times)

In the first scene, Sandy has just gotten out of the shower and is wearing only a towel as she interacts in her kitchen with Henry, their sons, and their sons’ school friends. (Eric D. Snider)

Kate Hudson’s Jesse… (The Chicago Sun-Times)

…whose first line includes the strangely resonant philosophical query “Pilates?”… (The Guardian)

…is married to a doctor named Russell (Aasif Mandvi), and they have a toddler son… (The Chicago Sun-Times)

— named Tanner, yuk yuk yuk — (RogertEbert.com)

but she hasn’t told her parents Earl and Flo (Robert Pine and Margo Martindale) because they’re horrible racists who wouldn’t approve. Oh, and she’s been lying to Russell all this time, telling him her parents are in ill health and living in a retirement facility. (The Chicago Sun-Times)

Other than “wanting to go Indian,” Jesse’s other characteristics include doing yoga on her lawn and wearing unbuttoned striped shirts. Actually, that’s all of her characteristics. (Indiewire)

Sarah Chalke plays Jesse’s lesbian sister, who hasn’t told her parents (you remember the lovable Earl and Flo) about HER marriage because they’re just as homophobic as they are racist.
(Chicago Sun-Times)

Jesse’s parents, who casually refer to Russell as a “towelhead”… (Examiner)

…are, naturally, from Texas, where they live in a trailer park. (Washington Post)

Jason Sudeikis is a widower and father of two daughters who is still clinging to the memory of his wife, a military hero… (Chicago Sun-Times)

who, played by Jennifer Garner, comes back from the grave in a video of her doing karaoke.  (The Wall Street Journal)

And you better believe we get an over-the-top remembering-mom scene complete with an orchestral version of “Taps.” (Chicago Sun-Times)

Bradley’s got two girls to look after now, and if you guessed there might be an awkward tampon scene then you win a prize! (Examiner)

He’s not quite ready to start dating again, but after meeting Sandy in a supermarket checkout line and having an awkwardly hostile conversation about tampons, it’s pretty clear that they’re destined to be together forever. (Indiewire)

Plus, there is a mother who has swapped childbearing for a career and therefore is fated to become Julia Roberts with a vacant smile and an unfortunate wig. (Boston Globe)

Julia Roberts plays Miranda, a career-driven TV hostess… (Chicago Sun-Times)

…stoically hawking jewelry that (ironically!) emit their wearer’s emotions… (The Guardian)

…and a self-help book. (Chicago Sun-Times)

For some reason, she is a gigantic celebrity. (NY Post)

We come to learn, through some on-the-nose scripting, that Miranda gave up everything in pursuit of her career, including her family. (Examiner)

“Do you have any kids?” “No. Career,” goes a representative exchange (Variety)

Britt Robertson is Kristin, a young mother who can’t fully commit to the father, an aspiring stand-up comedian. As Kristin explains to Jesse, she was adopted and she has always wondered about her birth mother. (Chicago Sun-Times)

You will guess, immediately, who her mom turns out to be. (NY Times)

[Spoiler dispatch, from the future of the article you’re reading] The character holds a book signing (not at a bookstore, mind you), asking each fan “Who do I make this out to?” until one walks up and dramatically announces “Your daughter!!!” (ScreenCrush)

RACISM

This movie has every mother imaginable except any who are non-white or poor. (Boston Globe)

Each scene reveals another layer of woe for Atlanta’s upper-middle class, where everyone lives in an enormous house but no one seems to have a job. (The Guardian)

Where everyone from interior designers to struggling waitresses owns spacious, artfully cluttered homes with patios — mean divorced dads live in modernist blocks that resemble bank branch locations — and where suburbanites can fill their backyards with pricey party-store rentals at the drop of a hat. (The Wrap)

Interesting note: there are, apparently, no black people in Atlanta, except for one plus-sized sass machine who drops one pearl of wisdom for each chunky sight-gag.  (The Guardian)

Minor but conspicuously diverse characters include a gay sister and her partner, a nice Muslim doctor, and a token (but exuberant) black woman, along with dutifully inclusive glimpses of two nuns, two kids in wheelchairs and several fatties. (The Wall Street Journal)

The owner of a bar called Shorty’s is a little person. (Chicago Sun-Times)

Marshall tries to play off Martindale’s character and her husband (Robert Pine) as sort of adorably racist. (NY Post)

Riding around in an RV, clad head-to-toe in Stars and Stripes and using chicken wings as toothpicks, the two are such ghastly caricatures that the portrayal almost seems unfair toward racist homophobes. (Variety)

And when the redneck’s wife sees a lesbian from behind, she calls her a “he.” (Chicago Sun-Times)

“Are you the house boy?” Earl asks Russell when he first happens upon him in the kitchen. (The Hollywood Reporter)

They’re bigots. Get it? (RogersMovieNation)

At one point the writers seem to acknowledge it when one character says, “I don’t get that joke, but it sounds racist.” (Examiner)

Luckily, Jesse’s parents are cured of their bone-deep bigotry thanks to an accidental Skype session with Russell’s broadly-played Indian mum (Anoush NaVart), who reveals that she too was once as prejudiced as they.  (Variety)

They end up in an out-of-control RV barreling down the street trailed by a papier-mâché vagina parade float, which feels like a reasonably good metaphor for this stupid movie. (NY Post)

PRODUCT PLACISM

The amount of product placement could fill a dozen baby cribs. (Examiner)

COORS LIGHT, THE FOUR SEASONS, FIJI BOTTLED WATER, CADILLAC, M&M’s, SKITTLES… (Chicago Sun-Times)

…a Folgers Coffee can with the label turned to camera… (The Wrap)

….heavy-handed Sprouts supermarket product placement. (Variety)

In one hospital scene, the very single Sandy gets her hand stuck in a snack machine just in time for the conveniently injured (and also very single) Bradley to help her. The machine just so happens to be filled with nothing but M&Ms, or more M&Ms than any respectable place of healing would allow. (Examiner)

MISCELLANEOUS HIJINKS

Aasif Mandvi gets racially profiled by cops while wearing a woman’s bathrobe. (ScreenCrush)

Jennifer Aniston sulks through the entire film until a clown (yes, a clown) inspires her to turn her life around by comparing his bottomless hanky to “the bottomless love a mother feels for her children.” No, really. (ScreenCrush)

The biggest laugh in Mother’s Day comes when Sandy’s son mistakenly wears his lion costume backwards in a school play, the tail protruding obscenely from his crotch. (The Hollywood Reporter)

The old “character delivers a monologue with her back turned, not realizing her intended audience has exited the room” bit. (Chicago Sun-Times)

Overweight women are targeted for ridicule in scenes involving pole dancing and struggling to get out of a butterfly chair. (Chicago Daily Herald)

“I put on my bra for this?” says a bemused, Hawaiian-shirt-clad Margo Martindale (NationalPost)

There’s a meet-cute, a re-meet-cute, a wedding, a medical crisis, a runaway RV, a few reconciliations, several breakthroughs and a climactic selfie. (The Hollywood Reporter)

At one point, Jennifer Garner sings a Huey Lewis and the News song, in what feels like the whitest moment in the history of cinema. (Washington Post)

MISCELLANEOUS LOWJINKS

There’s a scene where a child walks up to a karaoke machine and goes “Wow!” and another girl says “Do you know what this is?” and she cheerfully replies “No!” (Why was she so excited if she didn’t know what it was?!?) (ScreenCrush)

Sandy discovers that “tweet” is a verb. And she doesn’t like it! (Chicago Daily Herald)

Inopportune flat tires to accidentally answered Skype calls to Sudekis, karaoking his butt off to the Humpty Dance, forgetting the dimensions of his own home and plummeting over a railing. Listen, something’s gotta get him to the hospital for the big meet-cute finish. (The Guardian)

Cut to the sassy black woman saying, “That’s what happens when white people try to rap,” and top it off with a shot of a black child dancing with impeccable rhythm. (Chicago Sun-Times)

What to make of the scene where Timothy Olyphant silently contemplates a glazed donut as if he’s never seen one before in his entire life? (ScreenCrush)

“You’re my sister and I live next to you!” Gabi (Sarah Chalke) tells her sister Jesse (Kate Hudson), who apparently needs to be reminded where she actually lives. (The Daily Herald)

A mother-to-be character is perfectly fitting, and when she goes into labor during the climax, set on Mother’s Day obviously, you think that’s a great way to get more characters to the hospital location, but then she disappears. Perhaps the writers or director or whole production forgot about her? (About.com)

The biggest laugh comes courtesy of the production’s no-doubt overworked sound department, when Ms. Robertson utters “I have abandonment issues” without moving her mouth. (NY Times)

The characters in Mother’s Day have a habit of making strange pronouncements like that, often while offscreen. (A good 30 percent of the dialogue is spoken by people who aren’t on camera) (ScreenCrush)

This got the biggest laugh of the film, even with a whole minor storyline set at a comedy club… (The Guardian)

…a comedy club where Jon Lovitz wanders around holding a dog and Jack Whitehall tells awful jokes while holding a baby, and the audience onscreen laughs hysterically because there is nothing funnier in this world than when a man holds something. (ScreenCrush)

No one breastfeeds in “Mother’s Day,” but the camera seems to be angled directly down Aniston’s cleavage in most of her scenes, and one strange sequence sees Hudson spill a glass of water on her shirt just so she can strip down to her bra while changing it. (Variety)

The movie’s most natural reaction shot belongs to a llama. (Indiewire)

It sounds not just awkward but repetitive and almost confusingly descriptive, as if written for blind children. Some of the information-imparting gems include “I’m your sister and I live next door to you,” “I have abandonment issues,” “There’s a reason we moved here to Georgia”, and “Mom loved karaoke.” (The AV Club)

SELF REFERENTIAL

Marshall apparently also gets a kick out of Julia Roberts referencing Pretty Woman. In a closing credits scene in Valentine’s Day, a limo driver points out Rodeo Drive to Roberts’ character, and asks if she ever shopped there.

“I did once,” she replies. “It was a big mistake. Big. Huge.” (Chicago Sun-Times)

Roberts’ Miranda sports a terrible and unflattering wig. According to People, it’s literally the same wig worn by Roberts in Helix, the movie within a movie in Notting Hill(Chicago Sun-Times)

Hector Elizondo plays a confidante to Roberts’ character, much like he did in Pretty Woman. (USA Today)

There’s a modern wink at his sister Penny’s A League of Their Own — “There’s no texting in soccer.” (USA Today)

“I can’t wait to see what they do for Father’s Day,” says an observer. God, woman, don’t give Marshall any more ideas! He’s also got Aniston’s character name-checking Flag Day, so mark your calendars for at least a couple more of these. (NY Post)

If nothing else, it’s clear that everyone on the set of Mother’s Day” was enjoying their time working with [Garry Marshall] — for proof, look no further than hilarious bloopers, in which Jennifer Aniston is seen ruining a take by accidentally referring to Julia Roberts’ character as “Julia!” Julia! But that’s her real name! What a gas.  (Indiewire)

It’s all as predestined, slow-footed and played-out as People Magazine (equally played-out) naming Aniston its “Most Beautiful Woman” — again — cynically timed for this wilted daisy of a comedy’s release. (RogersMovieNation)

I know, I know, that “wilted daisy” line wasn’t strictly summary, but I felt like I had to include any imagery that involved plants dying from unfunniness. In any case, let this be the last of the interconnected holiday rom-coms. And for anyone who claims to love Love Actually, please know that this is partly your fault.

Vince Mancini is a writer, comedian, and podcaster. A graduate of Columbia’s non-fiction MFA program, his work has appeared on FilmDrunk, the UPROXX network, the Portland Mercury, the East Bay Express, and all over his mom’s refrigerator. Fan FilmDrunk on Facebook, find the latest movie reviews here.

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