Garry Marshall’s nakedly formulaic ensemble comedy Mother’s Day—part of an anti-franchise that includes Marshall’s holiday-themed ensemble comedies Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve—feels like something out of The Twilight Zone. Why? Because it takes place in a strange alternate universe. A universe where adults behave like children and children behave like adults. A universe where a widowed single father would make good to his daughter by buying her a karaoke machine and then using it to victimize a captive audience with a rendition of Digital Underground’s “The Humpty Dance,” punctuated by breaking his leg. A universe where everyone’s weirdly obsessed with Mother’s Day.
What world is this, where a gaggle of middle-aged women would gather around the aforementioned widowed single father (Jason Sudeikis) and cheerily, eagerly press him, “What are your plans for Mother’s Day?” Now, listen, I love my mother in specific and mothers in general, but Mother’s Day in my world is not a manic weeklong preoccupation. But that’s the attitude you need to peddle if you’re Marshall and his team of screenwriters, the team required to craft Kate Hudson’s introductory line “I ate a whole coffee cake last night.”
The story built around this holiday feels even more like accelerated shuffle play than either of Marshall’s last two films, with scenes sometimes lasting less than thirty seconds as if to say, “Hey, don’t forget! Oscar winner Julia Roberts really is in this movie!” She really is, playing HSN shill and “Shopped to the Top” author Miranda Collins. And J. Ro just might be a mother to one of the film’s other twelve main characters, though presumably not to sisters Jesse (Hudson) and Gabi (Sarah Chalke), who live right next door to each other and dread the visit of their mother Flo (Margo Martindale) and father Earl (Robert Pine, who gives a performance so broad I yearned to dropkick him out of the movie), lest the sisters have to reveal that they are, respectively, married to an Indian man (Aasif Mandvi) and a woman (Cameron Esposito).
Also kicking around the Atlanta of Mother’s Day: Jennifer Aniston’s Sandy, who’s jealously dismayed to discover her ex-husband (Timothy Olyphant, who really ought to get that squint checked out) has married a pretty young thing (Shay Mitchell) who Sandy’s children love; British-born stand-up comic Zack (Jack Whitehall) and baby-mama Kristin (Britt Robertson); and...well, there’s more, but you really don’t want to know. Suffice it to say that Marshall acolytes won’t be disappointed: his mascot Hector Elizondo does show up, as Collins’ agent, in the latter-day-Groucho drag of a beret and ever-present unlit prop cigar. Although Marshall is nothing if not a genial character—this movie's party clown, who exclaims, "Got a smile from ya!," is clearly the director's surrogate—he's always been a more distinctive performer than a welcome filmmaker.
What to say about a product this artless? A movie so tone-deaf and awash in white privilege that it thinks it’s okay to merrily force Mandvi (as one of the film’s two significant characters of color) to lie on the ground in a wildly unfunny riff on police racism. A movie whose terms of endearment are to cram in as many “cute” Central Casting kids and sunny, colorful close-ups as possible. A movie of mirthless sitcomedy and shameless synthetic sentiment. And a movie so far up its own posterior that it includes the threatening exchange “They made a womb float for Mother’s Day?” “I can’t wait to see what they do for Father’s Day!” Well, I can.
Universal wraps up your Mother's Day gift as a Blu-ray + Digital HD release with a couple of video-based bonuses totalling about fifteen minutes. Fans of the film will certainly appreciate the top-notch A/V specs. No one could ask for more than the bright, tight, colorful picture quality here and the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. Having seen the film on the big screen, I can vouch for the transfer's fidelity in presenting the shot-on-digital but surprisingly film-like picture in its proper hues and contrast, as well as with impeccable detail and palpable textures. As expected, audio demands are minimal, but some effects are placed for subtle immersion. Mostly, it's all about the front-and-center dialogue (always clear and prioritized) and the full-bodied music.
"Deleted Scenes" (4:59, HD with "Play All" option) comprise "America the Beautiful," "Big Tipper," "Miranda's Travel Set," "Zack Changes Diaper During Standup," "Rachel Driving," and "Bradley Buys Pizza for the Ref." We also get the full "Gag Reel" (9:48, HD), more than you get in the film's closing credits crawl. Garry Marshall (RIP) completists and die-hard fans of the on-screen talent will definitely want to snap up this good-looking disc.
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer