Bad Moms 2 is festive, not fresh
A year ago, Bad Moms came hurtling out of the traps. A success, thanks to its foul-mouthed edges and relatable leads, it was inevitable a sequel would show up to build on the box office plaudits of the first.
This time around though, while the formula still offers some laughs, it feels like the subject doesn't feel as fresh - despite the attempts of all involved to try and keep it bubbling over.
Building on the pressures of conforming to societal norms expressed in the first, the latest is, as the title suggests, set at Christmas and sees Mila Kunis' Amy, Kristen Bell's Kiki and Kathryn Hahn's Carla determined to reclaim back the festive season when their mothers come to town.
But as the pressure to make everything perfect unfolds, the pot begins to boil over....
Once again, setting the film against a backdrop of relatability helps Bad Moms 2 achieve a degree of familiarity. However, while there are a few laughs throughout (potentially more if you're a group out on a night out or imbued with alcohol), there are not quite enough as the Hangover-style opening of a trashed house (complete with camel walking into shot) would suggest.
It feels a little less fresh this time, and some may even say rushed in parts as the script shows cracks; most of the film feels like mini-episodes sewn together with such a laissez-faire attitude that it makes it hard to fully engage with what's going on.
And the trio of mothers who end up visiting their broods are so ghastly, not once do you ever feel anything but from the oppressed younger mums' point of view. Sure, it ends up in the usual gloop of sentimentality that tars all festive films - but there are a few raucous laughs to be had, mainly from Hahn's foul-mouthed member of the group.
Kunis and Bell are fine, but don't have nearly as much to work with - and whilst it's good the male element is sidelined (aside from one skin-crawlingly unamusing fat-shaming Santa sequence), there's little that feels as enticing this time around.
Baranski is the best of the bunch, even though Sarandon's rocker hits fast and loose to start off with. It's Baranski as Amy's mum who delivers some of the best deadpan sneering moments and manages to get the rankling sideswipes that family members dish out so well downpat.
Best viewed with a non-critical head and with a group of friends, it does feel like Bad Moms 2, aka Bad Moms Christmas, is the contractually obliged sequel in a series that's already worryingly out of ideas. Inevitably perhaps the next one will be Bad Moms Summer Holiday, but unless there's a stronger script and more to go on than the recognition of universal truths faced by mums and their mothers, the Bad Moms franchise could undo all the goodwill its strong leads have already garnered.
Bad Moms 2
Cast: Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Susan Sarandon, Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines
Directors: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
Running time: 104 minutes