There is nothing wrong with embracing faith-based comedies that incorporate Christian beliefs attached to loose-minded kookiness in the name of motherhood. In Moms’ Night Out one might want to change their perspective slightly courtesy of this tedious and unimaginative farce slated to take full advantage of the observational Mother’s Day weekend 2014. Moms’ Night Out is meant to be innocuous and filled with breezy moralistic zip but the flat shenanigans feel outrageously strained in this toothless suburban working-mommy romp.
Aside from the Christian-themed frivolity, Moms’ Night Out touts its transparent humor with strokes of blandness highlighted by wooden acting and gentle madcap situations. The directorial tandem of brothers Jon and Andrew Erwin convincingly stamp their clunky comedic mark on the silly noise-making nuances that takes place in this matriarchal mockery but the Erwins fail to solidify the empty-minded chuckles with any skillful drive or penetrating momentum. Instead, Moms’ Night Out stumbles out of the gate with its staged platform of preachy lapses and stable of disconnected goofy bits. The performers are handcuffed by the hokey hilarity as Moms’ misses the golden opportunity to solidly satirize the “domestic destruction” of under-appreciated mothers while favoring a lighthearted helping of lunacy that never registers with any genuine truthfulness despite its intended family-flavored fluffiness.
Actually, there was an opportunistic foundation in which to exploit the nuttiness and nonsensical struggles of put-upon mothers everywhere that would have made Moms’ Night Out a radical hoot within its Christian-oriented confines. However, there is no particular rhyme or reason to derive from such a flimsy showcase. In any event, the “main” mother in question is blogger Allyson (Sarah Drew from TV’s “Grey Anatomy”), a stay-at-home mom so bogged down in household chores that she longs for her freedom to break out of the domesticated doldrums. Hence, she consults her architect husband Sean (Sean Astin) and arranges for him to watch the kids as she seeks to enjoy some leisurely time outside of her trapped walls of (s)mothering.
Allyson’s release from the stress and strain of parenting will lead her to enjoy an eventful night out with fellow mommy cohorts Izzy (Andrea Logan White) and Sondra (Emmy-winner Patricia Heaton from TV’s “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “The Middle”), a pastor’s wife. As with Allyson, both Izzy and Sondra have a colorful backstory attached to their domestic lives as well. Izzy has twins to care for yet her hubby is petrified of small youngsters. Sondra has to deal with an unruly teenage daughter. Still, these women need to liberate and find solidarity in each other’s company. Thus, it places their vulnerable husbands in uncomfortable circumstances as they are left to pick of the slack in minding the offspring and carrying on the burden of perceived “household hell”. So the built-in joke is there for the taking: three sets of parents stepping outside of their skins to experience variations of pleasure and pain away and within the imprisoned house. How cozy, huh?
Predictably, the so-called mayhem begins to unravel for the ladies as mix-ups and mess-ups lead to all sorts of chaotic complications. From an elegant restaurant, a brightly lit bowling alley, the hospital, the jail cell, etc. these misguided mothers seems to be all over the place as trivial trouble follows them like an unshakable shadow. The premise, courtesy of screenwriters Jon Erwin and Andrea-Gyertsen Nasfell, is simply a run-of-the-mill scatter-shot mess that is needlessly pretentious. Whatever focus of faith and spiritual spryness that Moms’ Night Out had in mind to fuel its tank of perception was thrown out with the biblical bathwater.
What feels really insulting and dismissive about Moms’ Night Out is its shallow handling of “motherly malaise” involving privileged suburban woman suffering the slings and arrows of suburban life drudgery. Would not one rather see genuine desperate mothers in need (for instance ones that are struggling for money and security or juggles a demanding career and children) unwind for some lopsided moments that at least could be deemed believable and sympathetic? Sure, these particular matriarchs are situated financially in unknown Picket Fence, America but the movie misses the wicked point to even skewer their advantageous position of well-situated mothers yet the audience are to identify with harried women that have stable-providing hubbies? In fact, the only “jeopardized mother” involved that could make use of the movie’s legitimate message of adversity is Abbie Cobb’s Bridget, a low-waged waitress arbitrarily thrown into the mix. Otherwise, Moms’ Night Out does not ooze any sincerity or insight into its clumsy comedy.
The animated escapades of the featured mothers in questionable wackiness is uninspired. The most recognizable Mom in Heaton is a bit of a letdown as her brand of “mommy weariness” known to television audiences especially in her nine-year running classic sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond has shown that Heaton does have the chops to portray a flawed mother figure with noted exasperation. Unfortunately, the paper thin material lets down the potential of Heaton, lead Drew and others in a Mother’s Day miscue that could not be rescued even by a well-intentional sentimental Hallmark card. Only country singer and reality TV show contestant in The Celebrity Apprentice winner Trace Adkins escapes with a notable turn as an affable biker named Bones.
Sadly, these prancing mommies should have stayed home after all.
Moms’ Night Out (2014)
Sarah Drew, Patricia Heaton, Andrea Logan White, Sean Astin, Trace Adkins, Abbie Cobb
Andrew Erwin and Jon Erwin
Jon Erwin and Andrea Gyertson Nasfell
Sony Affirm/Provident Films
CRITIC’S RATING: ** stars (out of 4 stars)