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Movie Review: Sexism trumps religion in aggravating ‘Mom’s Night’

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‘Moms’ Night Out’

★★

A lot of effort clearly went into making this wholesome, middle-class suburban-nightmare comedy as appealing as possible for a broad audience despite its religious agenda — unless the intent was to let Christian audiences sample the edginess of mainstream comedy fare.

But it’s hard to imagine anyone other than an audience of true believers feeling good about sitting through the increasingly aggravating “Moms’ Night Out.” Especially when it finally gets around to driving home its moral and spiritual lessons.

That’s not to say there’s nothing likeable about, however. In fact, it begins fairly promisingly with a clever, energetic portrait of a young wife and mother striving to cope with the stress in her life. Allyson (Sarah Drew of “Grey’s Anatomy”) is an aspiring “mommy blogger” who describes herself as a clean freak “with nerve endings in the carpet.” She has a loving husband (Sean Astin, “Lord of the Rings,” “Rudy”), three comically challenging kids, a nice house and a minivan — everything, in short that she’s always wanted. And yet, she’s becoming a bit unhinged.

More than a bit, actually. Early on, it begins to look like Allyson is not just stressed but teetering on the verge of a psychotic break. And it’s around that point that the film’s comic mood starts to shift from energetic to frantic — with strident, overbearing and wearisome not a long way off.

Hubby’s solution is to encourage Allyson to take a night off with her gal pal Izzy (Logan White) and perfect mom/preacher’s wife Sondra (Patricia Heaton of “Everybody Loves Raymond”). But of course things don’t go quite as planned, at a fancy restaurant or at a bowling alley, where the ladies become involved in helping Allyson’s sister-in-law (Abbie Cobb) search for her missing baby.

Through it all, there are occasional plusses, including a likeable biker guy/tattoo artist (country star Trace Adkins) who offers an assist and a few mildly amusing moments — in addition to one unexpectedly big laugh involving Sondra and a Taser gun. And it could even be argued that the late-breaking religious platitudes are at least presented in a heartfelt and sincere manner. But it’s hard to forgive the way “Moms’ Night Out” frequently portrays Allyson, Izzy, Sondra and Bridget as a gaggle of near-hysterical geese for comic effect — benignly tolerated by whatever men happen to be around.

Surely at this stage, especially in a story that’s ostensibly devoted to women, we should expect something a little less sexist than that.

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