Review: 'Mother's Day' is pleasant and funny

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Miranda (Julia Roberts) in “Mother’s Day.” (Shaw Organisation)

Marcus Goh is a Singapore television scriptwriter. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. He Tweets/Instagrams at Optimarcus and writes atmarcusgohmarcusgoh.com. The views expressed are his own.

Secret ending? Yes.

Running time: 118 minutes (~2 hours)

“Mother’s Day” is a romantic comedy about four different families and their parent-child relationships. As Mother’s Day approaches, they are forced to reevaluate their existing relationships. It stars Jennifer Aston (Sandy), Timothy Olyphant (Henry), Shay Mitchell (Tina), Julia Roberts (Miranda), Britt Robertson (Kristin), Hector Elizondo (Lance Wallace), Jack Whitehall (Zack), Jason Sudeikis (Bradley), Loni Love (Kimberly), Kate Hudson (Jesse), Aasif Mandvi (Russell), Sarah Chalke (Gabi), Cameron Esposito (Max), Margo Martindale (Fl0), and Robert Pine (Earl). It is rated M-18.

“Mother’s Day” is an unexpectedly pleasant film to tie in to Mother’s Day. It has all the tropes that you’d expect from such a family film (although ironically, with its M-18 rating, it can’t be a family film), but treacle cuts all the corny bits so that it never gets too sappy. It’s a light comedy that reveals the changing dynamics of a “normal” family (what with an interracial marriage, same sex marriage, and a huge age gap in one of the marriages), and this modern take is also what makes it more relevant and accessible to today’s audience.

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Tina (Shay Mitchell) in “Mother’s Day.” (Shaw Organisation)

Highlights

Themes about family

Families come in all shapes and sizes, and the film isn’t afraid to deal with tougher issues like a widower with two daughters. In fact, there’s hardly a traditional couple where they’re both of different genders but of the same race and age group. This lack of homogeneity strengthens the theme of family ties, since it applies to a larger demographic. More importantly, it teaches us about the need to accept the different types of families.

Good mix of comedy and drama

The dramatic elements never get too intense, and the film always pulls back with a joke or visual humour to keep things light. That’s not to say there’s no emotional impact, since “Mother’s Day” deals with some pretty heavy issues like adoption, abandonment, and acceptance. But since most of the cast members are seasoned comedians, the movie makes good use of their talents to keep a light-hearted tone. It’s a good balance of seriousness and laughs, and this helps you appreciate family while not being didactic about the message.

Surprisingly good child stars

The kids in the show aren’t the usual bratty bunch, and show much insight for their age. Being a family movie, there are a lot of children in “Mother’s Day,” from toddlers to teenagers. They’re tasked to not only provide comedy in the way children do, but also to emote convincingly for the emotional resolution. It’s a lot of range to expect from the kids, but they deliver.

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Kirstin (Britt Robertson) and Zack (Jack Whitehall) in “Mother’s Day.” (Shaw Organisation)

Letdowns

Predictable plot

You can’t veer too much from the standard template of family dramas, so you can pretty much guess the ending of each family’s story after their interruption. Besides the unique takes on family dynamics, there’s little else in terms of subverted expectations. Story is not the strong suit of the film, but the characterisation is.

Weak resolution

The film’s conclusion is a long, slow deflation as the various plot lines wind to a close. There’s no big bang to end the movie, although it does have a feel good vibe. You’d have expected a grand celebration to close the whole film, but it just sort of… whimpers its ending.

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Jesse (Kate Hudson) and Max (Cameron Esposito) in “Mother’s Day.” (Shaw Organisation)

“Mother’s Day” is a pleasant film to celebrate Mother’s Day with… if your family is above 18.

Should you watch this at weekday movie ticket prices? Yes.

Should you watch this at weekend movie ticket prices? No.

Score: 3.0/5

“Mother’s Day” opens in cinemas 5 May, 2016 (Thursday).