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Review: Mom’s Night Out (2014)

Mom’s Night Out (2014)

Directed by: Andrew Erwin and Jon Erwin

Premise: A trio of middle-aged mothers hit the town for a night away from their families and get into a series of misadventures.

What Works: Most of the comedic films of the past decade have been R-rated ventures, mostly in the mold of the Judd Apatow brand with pictures like Knocked Up and Bridesmaids. There’s nothing wrong with those films but it’s worth remembering that comedy can work for a broader audience. Movies as diverse as Adventures in Babysitting, The Princess Bride, and Dr. Strangelove exemplify the possibilities of the genre. Mom’s Night Out is something rare in the movie marketplace: a family friendly comedy. The picture is designed for family viewing, especially by conservative parents with young kids, and the filmmakers generally succeed in what they are trying to do. Mom’s Night Out presents a story of madcap comedy within a socially conservative framework and it ought to appeal to the people it is trying to reach. However, a lot of Mom’s Night Out is successful enough that it is likely to transcend its core audience and appeal to viewers outside of the faith-based constituency. The movie has two things going for it. First, it is consistently funny. The movie isn’t just funny for a faith-based audience; its humor works. Despite the story’s religious foundations, a lot of the humor of Mom’s Night Out is really about contemporary family life and that leads to the second element in the picture’s favor; Mom’s Night Out has a lot of authenticity to it. One of the challenges in a comedy, especially one whose story is built on misunderstandings, is to make the characters believably vulnerable but not so stupid as to inspire contempt by the audience. The scenarios of Mom’s Night Out are mostly credible and the characters have a human fallibility that is expertly mined for comedy. The film succeeds in both of these respects because of the lead performance by Sarah Drew. The actress has a terrific sense of comic delivery but she also shows a capacity for drama and Drew mixes those qualities very well, creating a full character on screen who is believable and empathetic.

What Doesn’t: Mom’s Night Out has a conservative, faith-based theme to it and for most of the movie that works well because it is all implicit. The three main characters are connected through their church and mentions of God and Christian values are integrated organically into the story. But the filmmakers forgo their light touch in the ending and the picture gets into trouble when it spells out the religious themes. Mom’s Night Out is primarily about women coping with a midlife crisis and their sense of failure in the roles of wife, mother, and friend. The exhaustion, disappointment, and frustration that the characters of Mom’s Night Out exhibit has a lot of authenticity to it and many viewers will identify with those struggles. Therein lies the problem of the movie’s climax: the filmmakers offer an oversimplified response to a complex problem. Near the end of the film one of the supporting players delivers a big speech about the value of faith. The film then repeats this same scenario with the main character hearing virtually the same speech from friends and family, and then finally repeating it to herself in voice over during the denouement. Having a religious response to life’s problems isn’t inherently problematic but the moviemakers adopt an overly sentimental tone and despite the amount of screen time devoted to delivering this message there is very little substance to it. As a result, the finale of Mom’s Night Out comes across false and artificial, which contrasts unfavorably with the rest of the picture.
Bottom Line: Mom’s Night Out will be a very satisfying viewing for its intended audience of faith-based viewers but the movie is funny enough and accessible enough that its appeal ought to be broader. It isn’t a great picture–the ending is compromised and it sometimes comes across as a Lifetime network movie of the week–but it is entertaining.

Episode: #491 (May 18, 2014)