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Mother's Day

A clichéd and agonisingly unfunny comedy that totally wastes its ensemble cast.
By Sarah Ward
May 03, 2016
By Sarah Ward
May 03, 2016

Mother's Day begins with Sandy (Jennifer Aniston) being told by her ex-husband Henry (Timothy Olyphant) that they need to talk. Instantly, the mother of two becomes convinced that he wants to rekindle their romance. In fact, it turns out that he has actually married the much-younger Tina (Shay Mitchell). As he breaks the news, an expression washes over Aniston's face – a mix of discomfort, dismay and barely concealed disgust. Fittingly, if the actors on screen could gaze back at you in the audience, they'd see the exact same look plastered across your visage too.

Mother's Day's pedigree explains part of its troubles, with the feature offering up the latest slice of holiday-oriented schmaltz in the wake of Valentine's Day and New Year's Eve. Director Garry Marshall returns once again to intertwine tales focused around a special occasion, serving up bite-sized snippets of stories that are supposed to embody the meaning and spirit of the date in question. So far, so standard. Unfortunately, the movie's problems far exceed those of its predecessors.

Corralling famous talent, giving them very little to do, and even asking one — Aniston again — to shout most of her dialogue at herself, does not fit into the recipe for a successful film. Neither does clichéd scriptwriting straight out of a sub-par sitcom or soap opera, or bland visuals that look like they were made for television as well. As competing narratives unfold, you may find yourself wondering if you've seen all this before in the low-budget TV realm. Frankly, that's charitable.

Other vignettes include sisters (Kate Hudson and Sarah Chalke) coping with their redneck parents (Margo Martindale and Robert Pine) as they react with racism and homophobia to their daughters' respective relationships, and a widowed father (Jason Sudeikis) commemorating the titular event a year after the death of his wife Dana (Jennifer Garner). There's also an aspiring comedian (Jack Whitehall) attempting to convince the mother of his daughter (Britt Robertson) to marry him, and a TV shopping entrepreneur (Julia Roberts) plagued by maternal issues of her own.

Marshall's filmmaking sensibilities might have waned considerably since his '80s and '90s heyday, but one thing has remained constant: subtlety isn't his strong point. But at least his earlier features put some effort into evoking an emotional reaction, be it weeping at Beaches or indulging in the fantasy of Pretty Woman. Here, a checklist of contrived dramas and coincidences — two surprise reunions, hospital visits and meet-cutes, plus a wedding, a runaway motor home and a man buying tampons — are supposed to do the trick instead. It shouldn't come as a surprise that it all proves as dull and laughter-free as it sounds.

Indeed, by the time Mother's Day has devolved to the point of making unnamed bystanders exclaim "I love babies!" and "I can't wait to see what they do for Father's Day", viewers will have spotted that initial look of discomfort not just on Aniston's face, but on the faces of every single cast member as well. Finding love and acceptance might be the main aim for these one-note characters, but the film they're stranded in is never going to inspire that response. If you're looking for a movie to take your mum to this Mother's Day, almost anything else would be better.

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