Moms’ Night Out is a tame movie. It’s tamer than tame. If movies were made from the fabric that makes those mattresses they drop bowling balls on to show you how soothing your sleeping habits will be, Moms’ Night Out would be the ideal prototype.
The film isn’t worthy of being labeled “bad”. That status goes to movies that try to achieve something, and flounder in spectacular ways. Moms’ Night Out doesn’t really “do” anything, and thus, you can’t really feel any disdain towards it. You just sort of wait patiently for it to end.
Andrew and Jon Erwin – the directors of this flaccid flick – are either too scared to offend or too frightened by failure. What an unfortunate attitude to inherit when making a comedy.
Because of mainstream successes like Bridesmaids and the Hangover films, there are expectations when it comes to making audiences laugh – especially with movies that run with the “one wild night” premise. An added pressure looms over the film and intimidates the filmmakers to be provocative. Moms’ Night Out has been brought to you by faith-based studios Provident Films and Sony’s AFFIRM Films, so don’t expect shocking humour from these companies. However, those expectations have intimidated the Erwins. Instead of thinking of family friendly jokes, the directorial duo would rather hold their breath and hope their movie’s risk-free innocence will win the crowd over. It doesn’t.
There are ways to spin gold out of the “one wild night” scenario while keeping matters clean. Take Date Night, for instance. It’s a decent comedy with lots of funny exchanges and reflections, and it rarely flexes its PG-13 rating to get the laugh.
There were ways for the Erwins to make us laugh. Some misunderstandings between characters offer the fuel the filmmakers need. But, they pass up these chances and unintentionally remind their audience of other – much better – movies. And, what about co-star Patricia Heaton’s contribution as an executive producer? You would think this Emmy-winning, skilled actress would use her clout to shape Moms’ Night Out into something sharper.
The only actor who understands how doomed the circumstances are is country musician Trace Adkins. Adkins plays Bones, a burly biker with a soft heart. Adkins tries to develop his scenes by playing up this dynamic, but his repertoire can only benefit the film for a limited time. He at least makes us smile though. Sean Astin, on the other hand, tries to follow suit as a try-hard daddy, but his duties to haul a subplot about faltering fathers weigh him down.
When the Erwins aren’t lumbering through their story about liberated mothers trying to track down a baby on the loose, they pause for devout monologues reinforcing that God is your compadre and confidant through thick and thin. Surprisingly, these talks don’t feel too out of place. The audience has a tougher time rooting on a lead that’s as ungrateful as Sarah Drew’s Allyson is. As the film trucks along, Allyson appreciates her life more, but we still have a hard time accepting her.
When the Erwins turn their religious gears, the shift is blunt. But, Moms’ Night Out is not as heavy or manipulative as one might think. However, the film lacks heft anywhere else.