FILM REVIEW – MOTHER’S DAY. With Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Julia Roberts, Jason Sudeikis, Timothy Olyphant. Written by Tom Hines, Lily Hollander. Anya Kochoff, Matthew Walker. Directed by Garry Marshall. Rated PG-13 for language and some suggestive material. 118 minutes.
After “Valentine’s Day” (2010) and “New Year’s Eve” (2011) one would think that Hollywood would never let director Garry Marshall make another movie associated with a holiday. He’s back with MOTHER’S DAY, and the good news is the scriptwriter of the previous two movies is not associated with it. Instead, four different writers have their fingerprints on it, and the result is a safe sitcom on the theme of motherhood. It’s not a blockbuster, but it’s certainly an appropriate movie to take your mother to in the week leading up to actual Mother’s Day (May 8).
There are four intertwined stories set in the suburbs of Atlanta. Sandy (Jennifer Aniston) is the divorced mom of two boys who has to deal with the fact that her ex (Timothy Olyphant) has remarried. Jesse (Kate Hudson) is estranged from her mother (Margo Martindale) who didn’t approve of her relationship with someone whose family is from India (Aasif Mandvi), and whom she has subsequently married. Bradley (Jason Sudeikis) is a widower with two girls whose wife died during deployment in Iraq and who is still mourning. Kristin (Britt Robertson) is a young single mother who lives with her boyfriend (Jack Whitehall) but is afraid to commit. Julia Roberts appears as a Home Shopping Network celebrity who connects with several of the stories.
You can probably already figure out where the stories are going–and wonder why it took four writers to get them there–but that’s not the point. As a director Marshall, who was one of the kings of ’70s TV sitcoms (“Happy Days,” “Mork & Mindy”), has never been a critical favorite. Yet films like “Beaches” and “Pretty Woman” hit the sweet spot for moviegoers looking for entertaining stories that would make them feel good. At 81, he’s not likely to compete with Clint Eastwood in tackling new challenges as a filmmaker, but with “Mother’s Day,” he lets the sitcom stories play out while focusing on the characters. The stories may not be believable but the emotions are.
The ensemble cast works well. As is typical with a film like this, the performers have done better work elsewhere, but they carry the goodwill they’ve built up into the movie so that we’re rooting for the happy endings no matter what it takes. Even Hector Elizondo–who has appeared in every one of Marshall’s films–takes it easy here, providing a variation of the comic dignificed presence he perfected in “Pretty Woman.”
Like the recent “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2,” “Mother’s Day” is a movie for a particular audience. You know who you are. If you’re gagging at the thought of it, don’t bother. If it sounds like the sort of movie you thought they didn’t make any more and miss, you’ll enjoy it.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is “Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide.” He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.