'A Bad Moms Christmas': Going for the easy and sleazy is no gift

For its sequel, the boozy, bawdy Bad Moms brand takes on Christmas, and welcomes a new slate of mothers.

In A Bad Moms Christmas, Kiki (Kristen Bell) gets a visit from her clingy mom (Cheryl Hines), divorced Amy (Mila Kunis) gets set upon by her perfectionist, fault-finding mother (Christine Baranski), and foul-mouthed Carla (Kathryn Hahn) must deal with her cash-borrowing, gambling addict matriarch (Susan Sarandon).

And, of course, there is the drinking and the cursing, on which these bad moms built a $100 million business. Kiki, Amy, and Carla walk into a mall, survey the overcrowded and commercialized chaos, and adjourn to the bar. Foul language abounds. What once was transgressive, though, has become reflexive. The three leads look like they’re tired of being obscene, so the writers find new boundaries to cross — they assign the blue Christmas dialogue to preschool children, a joke that gets repeated half a dozen times.

And, as is the custom in the women behaving badly genre, there is a male stripper. Carla falls in love with him while giving him a delicate wax (this is probably not one of the mother-daughter movies you take your mom to). Later, he shows up at a Christmas dinner and strips, and, again, Bad Moms ups (or downs) the ante by having a young girl ogle the performance. Striptease Santa (This is Us‘ Justin Hartley) makes the most of the ornamental role, and at least he isn’t killed, like his compatriot in the girls-gone-wild, abuse-of-a-corpse comedy Rough Night.

A Bad Moms Christmas is constructed, nominally, around the idea that Christmas has become, for overburdened mothers, an oppressive holiday, though whether a commercialized holiday is more oppressive than the R-rated low jinx of this movie is debatable.

The film is happy to reach for the easiest, sleaziest joke, and as a consequence asks little of its formidable cast. Baranski does another frosty blond snob, and Sarandon is in Banger Sisters mode, smoking marijuana and talking about her days as a roadie.

Hines gets the biggest laughs — she actually looks like Bell, and makes the most of a joke that has her needy character turning into her daughter’s stalking doppleganger.

Fans can best enjoy the movie the way the bad moms make the best of the holiday: lots of alcohol, lots of forgiveness.

MOVIES

A Bad Moms Christmas

  • Directed by John Lucas and Scott Moore. With Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Susan Sarandon, Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines and Peter Gallagher. Distributed by STXFilms.
  • Parents guide: R (language, drugs, sexual situations).
  • Run time: 1 hour, 44 mins.
  • Playing at: Area theaters.