FILM REVIEW – FUN MOM DINNER. With Katie Aselton, Toni Collette, Bridget Everett, Molly Shannon, Adam Scott. Written by Julie Rudd. Directed by Alethea Jones. Rated R for language throughout, crude sexual material, and drug use. 88 minutes.
There’s no question that we have different standards for movies we see in the theater and those we watch at home. Whether it’s a matter of cost or convenience, we expect more when we make the effort to go out. Thus the release of FUN MOM DINNER on demand (and “select theaters”) is a shrewd decision. As a “TV-movie,” it makes a nice showcase for its cast and first-time director Alethea Jones and writer Julie Rudd (though as a major summer release, it would quickly come and go).
This is a variation of the “women bonding” comedy. Instead of bridesmaids, they’re young moms who know each other through the pre-school their kids go to. Emily (Katie Aselton) married her first love Tom (Adam Scott), but their marriage has gotten stale and routine. Jamie (Molly Shannon) is divorced and not looking forward to dating as a single mom. Melanie (Bridget Everett) is the larger-than-life character who in a different movie, would be played by Melissa McCarthy as a boor. And Kate (Toni Collette) doesn’t really want to connect with this peer group.
In the course of the evening, the usual things happen for a movie like this. They drink too much. They get high (at a marijuana store co-owned by Paul Rudd, husband of screenwriter Julie Rudd). Emily will have a flirtation with a sexy bar owner (Adam Levine). Jamie will meet a sweet guy (Paul Rust). Tom and Andrew (Rob Heubel), another of the fathers, will learn that taking care of their own kids is not “babysitting” but “parenting,” and discuss improving their marriages.
In some ways it’s formulaic, but the cast plays it straight, letting the laughs come from the all-too-recognizable situations. One suspects that women of a certain age will identify with the characters sharing why “Sixteen Candles” is their favorite movie. There are some unexpected laughs as well, including a karaoke scene which makes this the second movie in two weeks (after the very different “Atomic Blonde”) to revive the ’80s pop hit “99 Red Balloons.” While the comedy is sometimes broad, it avoids the need to humiliate its main characters or those around them. Case in point is Everett’s character, who gets aggressive with a bartender, but only because one of their friends has disappeared. We’re encouraged to laugh with these characters, not at them.
“Fun Mom Dinner” is ideally targeted to the young mothers who probably wouldn’t get the time to see this in the theaters but can enjoy this short (88 minutes) movie after they get the kids to bed. Whether bonding with other mothers, or sharing a few laughs with their partners about their own lives, it’s an amiable, feel good comedy that won’t be disrupted if you have to pause it because Junior woke up.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Time on My Hands: My Misadventures in Time Travel. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.