With its terrible title and clichéd premise, 2016’s Bad Moms was funnier and more heartfelt than it had any right to be, simultaneously reminding us just how much our mothers do for us, and the potential for female driven comedies at the box office. This time round, with a festive theme and a much bigger cast, Bad Moms 2 might not be better, but still manages to hit the successful themes of the first.
Self-proclaimed bad mother Amy Mitchell (Mila Kunis) is sick and tired of stressing herself out over making Christmas perfect for her family; but just as she and best friends Kiki (Kristen Bell) and Carla (Kathryn Hahn) decide to have a laidback Christmas this year, each of their own mothers – Amy’s mum Ruth (Christine Baranski), Kiki’s mum Sandy (Cheryl Hines) and Carla’s mum Isis (Susan Sarandon) – decide to spend Christmas with their daughters, creating chaotic shenanigans as morals and personalities clash.
Bad Moms 2 definitely doesn’t exceed its predecessor in terms of heart: the story, of which there is little, focuses mostly on our original bad mums coming to terms with their own mothers being bad mums themselves, rehashing emotional beats from the first. But what makes this work are the relationships between mother and daughter – Christine Baranski is a powerhouse, perfect for the belittling relationship she has with Mila Kunis’ Amy; Cheryl Hines’ neuroses match Kristen Bell’s; and Susan Sarandon goes all out, standing toe-to-toe with Kathryn Hahn’s signature balls to the wall comedic chops. Each actress is evenly matched, and what’s most interesting is watching them all work together to create these relationships.
Yet this sequel also isn’t as funny as the first, despite a few standout scenes and supporting performances. Wanda Sykes’ surprise return as a family counselor is well worth it, as was This Is Us’s Justin Hartley’s comedic turn as Carla’s stripper-love interest; he steals every scene he’s in. However, many of the bigger, Christmas-related gags and recurring jokes don’t land nearly as well as intended, with laugh-out-loud moments few and far between. Bad Moms 2 chugs along as entertainment and is quickly forgotten.
The relationship between the highly prolific showrunner Ryan Murphy (Glee, American Horror Story, American Crime Story: The People vs OJ Simpson) and US cable network FX has been a largely fruitful one. When Murphy pitched the idea for his latest effort, Feud, a themed series that depicts famously combative relationships with the maiden series covering the filming of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and the bitter rivalry between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, FX head honcho John Landgraf immediately gave the thumbs up. It’s intended that each series will cover a different real-life feud, with the next series focusing on the tumultuous relationship between Prince Charles and Princess Diana.
Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) trawls dozens of novels that feature strong female characters in order to find a project for herself, given the dearth of decent roles for women of her age and stature. She stumbles across Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? about two sisters and decides to offer the co-lead to her arch rival Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon). She ropes in Robert Aldrich (Kiss Me Deadly, Flight of the Phoenix, The Dirty Dozen, played by Alfred Molina here) to direct. Aldrich ends up as the meat in the emotional sandwich as these two golden age goddesses hammer away at each other’s neurotic self-image and deep-seated sense of inferiority. Jack Warner (Stanley Tucci) is adamant that Aldrich keep the two former screen sirens at each other’s throats because of the tremendous publicity that gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (Judy Davis) is giving the production. As every day throws a new headline and a new volcanic meltdown on set, Aldrich does his best to play the two off against each other as the actresses both begin to fray at the edges. Catherine Zeta-Jones and Kathy Bates plays actresses Olivia de Havilland and Joan Blondell respectively.
The show looks fantastic and it is clear Murphy and his team relish the production design and style of the era. As a slice of old Hollywood history, it’s nice to bask in the recreation of the period.
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