Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Kate Hudson & Jason Sudeikis
Directed and co-written by: Garry Marshall
Director /writer Garry Marshall first made a name for himself in the entertainment business creating such beloved ABC sitcoms as “Happy Days, “ ”Laverne & Shirley,” “Mork & Mindy,” and “The Odd Couple.” Years later he found success on the big screen with such box office successes as “Beaches,” “Overboard,” “Pretty Woman,” “The Princess Diaries,” and “Runaway Bride.”
In recent years, Marshall has carved out a niche for himself making romantic comedies that have numerous storylines and characters that center around a holiday. In 2010 he made “Valentine’s Day” and then followed it up a year later with “New Year’s Eve.” Five years later he is back with his latest installment, “Mother’s Day.”
The story takes place in the tony greenleaf Atlanta neighborhood of Buckhead. Sandy (Jennifer Aniston), is an interior designer and a mom of two young boys, is blindsided when her ex, Henry (Tim Olyphant star of the FX Network’s “Justified) informs her that he has eloped with Tina (Shay Mitchell), an attractive 20-something.
Sandy’s friend and neighbor, Jesse (Kate Hudson), has a physician husband (Aasif Mandvi) and young son. According to this hard-to-believe plot, Jesse has never told her parents, a pair of ultra conservative Texans who make Ted Cruz look like a bleeding heart in comparison (Margo Martindale and Robert Pine) about her family because they would give her a lot of grief about marrying an Indian-American. She lets us know that she has been estranged from her parents for years. Her sister Gabrielle (Sarah Chalke) however does talk with them via Skype but they are unaware that she is gay and has a wife. You can see the inevitable surprise visit, conflict, and reconciliation coming a mile away.
Another thread in the film is a young couple scraping by with restaurant serving jobs, Kristin and Zack (Britt Robertson and Jack Whitehall). They have been together for five years and have a young daughter. What makes Zack depressed is that he can’t understand why she won’t accept his marriage proposals. In a subplot, Zack aspires to be a comedian and his material is the most G-rated in the history of standup.
The most lugubrious storyline has the normally very funny Jason Sudeikis playing against type as a grieving widower named Bradley who is raising two daughters. Bradley met his wife in the Marine Corps where she apparently made a career before being killed in action last year. In a flashback scene we see an uncredited Jennifer Garner playing his wife, Dana. Garner was wise in requesting that her name not be used in the credits.
Julia Roberts has screen time here in a thankless role as an HSN host who is a major celebrity to those who live to order merchandise from television networks that are in reality retail malls. Roberts was clearly doing a favor for Garry Marshall who is an old friend and collaborator.
It pains me to knock “Mother’s Day” because Hollywood doesn’t make many movies that are clearly aimed at a forty-plus demographic. Perhaps one reason that the big studios shy away is not solely based on box office receipts but rather knowing that they have to work harder for a more sophisticated audience. The corny dialog and contrived plot devices caused a lot of involuntary laughter from the audience at the screening that I attended.
There are a pair of positives that should be noted. It was great seeing one of my favorite “Saturday Night Live” cast members, Jon Lovitz, who has been out of sight for too long, back as an Atlanta comedy club impresario. Another Gary Marshall trouper, the always welcomed Hector Elizondo, shines as Roberts’ character’s manager.
If you want to do something nice for your mom, don’t take her to see this film.