REVIEW: Mother's Day (12A) **
Working to the same template as his films Valentine's Day and New Year's Eve, director Garry Marshall assembles a stellar cast for this sickly sweet comedy drama, set in the run-up to Mother's Day.
Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Julia Roberts and Jason Sudeikis vie for our wandering attention in four loosely intertwined narratives, which contemplate the enduring power of the maternal bond from different perspectives.
Screenwriters Anya Kochoff Romano, Matt Walker and Tom Hines aren’t content with signposting every predictable plot point in expository dialogue.
They bludgeon us with superfluous detail.
It’s not enough for one character to tearfully confess that she was adopted.
She has to crudely bullet point this touching moment of vulnerability with the brusque addendum: ‘I have abandonment issues.’
Thorny subjects of homophobia and racism are addressed with discomfiting glibness – ‘You got married to a towelhead?!’ laments one father to his daughter after she introduces her Indian husband - and the all-consuming grief of losing a parent is salved with greetings card platitudes.
Single mother Sandy Newhouse (Aniston) is stunned when her ex-husband Henry (Timothy Olyphant) confides he has just married his girlfriend Tina (Shay Mitchell).
Since the Newhouses share custody of their boys, Sandy leaves Peter (Brandon Spink) and Mikey (Caleb Brown) with Henry while she processes his happy news.
Nearby, widower Bradley Barton (Sudeikis) is haunted by the death of his soldier wife (Jennifer Garner).
He pines for her memory and his reluctance to live in the present creates friction with daughters Rachel (Jessi Case) and Vicky (Ella Anderson).
Meanwhile, Kristin (Britt Robertson) continues to rebuff marriage proposals from her stand-up comedian beau, Zack (Jack Whitehall), because she lacks a physical connection to her biological mother.
With encouragement from her friend Jesse (Hudson), Kristin confronts her missing link - glamorous home shopping doyenne Miranda Collins (Roberts), whose day-to-day existence is closely managed by her agent, Lance (Hector Elizondo).
As for Jesse and her lesbian sister Gabi (Sarah Chalke), they are hoarding plenty of secrets from their God-fearing Texan parents, Earl (Robert Pine) and Flo (Margo Martindale), who only leave home in a hulking RV.
Mother’s Day is a glossy waste of everyone’s talents and our precious time.
The script is saturated with saccharine emotion including a bizarre scene between Aniston and a children’s party clown, who philosophises, ‘It’s always the simple things that work... the bottomless love of a mother for her kids.’
Laughter is almost as hard to find as sincerity, even with the occasional in-joke such as Elizondo informing Roberts, ‘You’re right, that IS the salad fork!’ in a knowing wink to their iconic scene in Pretty Woman.
In terms of future installments, we should be grateful that other filmmakers have already staked claims to Independence Day, Halloween, Father’s Day and Black Friday.