Similar to the formula used in his two previous, warm-hearted comedies, Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve, Garry Marshall’s Mother’s Day is an ensemble, romantic comedy populated by attractive characters with overlapping conflicts. Some drift in out of each other’s sub-plots. Others may never meet. And like those two previous outings, it’s all built around the celebrations of one, all important, landmark day. Here it’s for mothers and all the emotional baggage, good and bad, that goes with it.
With an over-long running time of almost two hours, Mother’s Day spends the first seventy-five minutes setting up the relationships and conflicts of several married and almost married characters, all of whom have their individual issues to solve, whether it’s with each other, their children, or their parents. The final forty-five minutes belong to the day itself where all the conflicts of the first half come together and do their best to find resolution in one way or another before the final, sentimental fade out.
Heading the cast is Sandy (Jennifer Aniston), a divorced mother of two boys who continues to communicate with her ex, Henry (Timothy Olyphant). “You are the happiest divorced couple I’ve ever met,” says friend and confidante Jesse (Kate Hudson), suggesting that maybe, just maybe, there’s still something there that might bring everyone back together again, until Henry drops the bomb and tells Sandy he’s just married the drop-dead gorgeous Tina (Shay Mitchell), a much younger woman. “She’s almost thirty,” Henry tells his ex, adding, “In a few years.”
Then there’s Jesse with her own family issues. Jesse is married to Russell (Aasif Mandvi) who is a doctor of Indian descent. Jesse’s parents wouldn’t understand the idea of their daughter in a culturally mixed marriage, so she’s never told them. Then the bigoted parents make a surprise, out-of-state visit for Mother’s Day by turning up on their daughter’s doorstep, unannounced. “You married a towel-head?” asks dad, moments after having already insulted the man by asking the doctor if he was the hired help. The bewildered parents also discover the truth behind their other daughter’s marriage. Gabi (Sarah Chalke), who happens to live next door to her sister, is gay and in a relationship with another woman. “Are we on The Jerry Springer Show?’ asks mom (Margo Martindale).
And there’s more. Bradley (Jason Sudeikis) is a widowed father of two girls who mourns for his departed Marine wife (Jennifer Garner). His story overlaps with Aniston’s Sandy. Julia Roberts plays Miranda, a successful TV pitch-woman on HSN, married to her career, plus there’s Britt Robertson as single mom Kristin, a woman hesitant to commit to a marriage with her boyfriend, Zack (Jack Whitehall) because of some unresolved, personal issues. “I never knew my biological mother,” Kristin states. She knows who her mother is; she’s just never approached her. And we know that before the film concludes, both daughter and estranged mom will undoubtedly meet, and it’ll be someone in the cast we’ve come to know.
Shot by cinematographer Charles Minsky with a bright, candy-colored look throughout, Mother’s Day is exactly the film you think it’s going to be; sentimental, emotional, often mawkish and occasionally funny. Unlike 2003’s Love Actually, an ensemble, romantic comedy that Marshall appears to have adopted as a template, there’s no real adult-flavored hard edge to the humor, and that’s intentional. Each story has its soft center possessing the kind of resolution any romantic at heart will want and expect. By the end, even if every character doesn’t necessarily live happily ever after, at least most will live hopefully ever after. By design, no one is going to leave the theatre with an unresolved downer.
By this point, you must already know if the film is for you, particularly if you’ve warmed to director Marshall’s previous two outings with the same story-telling construction. It has a specific audience, and if buying mom flowers and candy doesn’t seem enough this year, then you have a movie to treat her to. You won’t remember much about it once it’s done, but at the very least, with the real Mother’s Day fast approaching, you’ll score a few extra parental points. After all, what would you prefer, give mom the day off and volunteer to work in the kitchen or take her to the movies? And if you’re still looking for a great present for her then check out Urban Kitchen they have lots of silverware and flatware that she will love.
MPAA rating: PG-13 Length: 118 Minutes Overall Rating: 5 (out of 10)