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At one point during A Bad Moms Christmas, one of the moms comments on repeatedly giving the same gift to her son over and over because he doesn't seem to notice. He opens it in an excited frenzy and marvels at the fact that Santa has once again given him another (read: the same) baseball glove. There's an irony to that sequence, as Jon Lucas and Scott Moore's yuletide-themed sequel very much repackages what worked in the original. That said, the film keeps the laughs coming at a brisk pace, so it's hard not to sit there and take it in with a dumb smile on your face.
Picking up several months after the events of the first Bad Moms, we find Amy (Mila Kunis), Carla (Kathryn Hahn), and Kiki (Kristen Bell) all coming to an abrupt realization about Christmas: they want nothing to do with it this year. However, their quest to take the stressful holiday back for moms is abruptly cut short when Amy's mom (Christine Baranski), Carla's mom (Susan Sarandon), and Kiki's mom (Cheryl Hines) all show up on their respective daughters' doorsteps for the holidays. As the stress of the holiday begins to mount, formalities soon start to melt away as the ladies of Bad Moms are forced to contend with the pressure imposed by their own bad moms.
From the moment A Bad Moms Christmas starts, it's clear that it has no intention of reinventing the wheel. If you enjoyed the original Bad Moms, and you're looking to spend more time with these characters in a more festive environment, then A Bad Moms Christmas will likely work for you. It plays to most of the same beats as the first film, and while it never delves into The Hangover Part II realm in terms of retreading old material, it's also clear that the film isn't trying to win over a brand new fanbase.
So, A Bad Moms Christmas definitely doesn't win points for originality, as it is clear that much of the framework of the plot has been cribbed from holiday classics like National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Jingle All the Way, and A Christmas Story. In fact, the story itself is mostly a recycled and repurposed framework of predictable tentpole moments filled in with a series of unnecessary (but predominately entertaining) hijinks that build to a (mostly earned) emotional catharsis. Of course, a movie like this is more about character moments than raw narrative, so it's really all about how Amy, Carla, and Kiki spend their time together.
That is important to note because even at the film's relatively lean one hour and forty-four-minute runtime, it still feels like quite a bit of A Bad Moms Christmas could've been trimmed. The movie is too long, and much of that has to do with a series of bits (not to mention several montages) that go on far longer than necessary. This is yet another one of those R-rated comedies in which you can tell that the filmmakers got a lot of talented improvisers in a room together and let them riff. It's certainly funny, but there's almost too much material in place to tell a streamlined story.
With that in mind, from a purely comedic standpoint, the strongest element of this movie is Kathryn Hahn's Carla. Whether she is drunkenly charging through a crowded shopping mall in a quest to defy convention and have fun during the holiday season, or flirting with the impossibly attractive Ty Swindell (Justin Hartley) during a waxing session, Hahn can oscillate between purely manic energy and quiet, deadpan delivery in the blink of an eye. Couple that with the fact that she can deliver some somber moments as a single mom trying to keep her head above water, and it becomes genuinely astonishing to think that Hahn has not headlined many mainstream comedies on her own.
With that said, the introduction of the new moms is a generally effective set-up that could arguably give the Bad Moms brand increased longevity for years to come. By design, each of the new moms feels like an extension of the younger heroine (Baranski is a cold, type-A control freak; Sarandon is an unreliable, nomadic rocker; and Hines is perpetually sweet and entirely co-dependent) without feeling like direct carbon copies. From a casting perspective, it is incredibly successful, as each of these actresses seems ideally suited to that particular archetype. However, while they do get some solid laughs in most of their scenes, the film also has some trouble balancing an ensemble of leads that's twice as big as the last film's.
This problem is exacerbated by the fact that the new bad moms do not spend much time on-screen together for the bulk of the film. The conflict between Amy and her mom is the core of the movie, but it often feels like there are three distinct half-hour episodes of Christmas-themed television playing out simultaneously, and the female leads from each of these series periodically get together for drinks to discuss what's been happening at their respective houses. That lack of cohesion can sometimes bog A Bad Moms Christmas down, but it obviously won't be enough to kill the film if you're already in love with these characters.
While not great, A Bad Moms Christmas is an above-average comedy sequel/ heartfelt Christmas story kept afloat the charm of the returning leads and their family dynamics. It's undeniably one of the more fun raunchy comedies of the last few years (particularly one of the more fun Christmas-themed raunchy comedies), but like the moms who populate this ever-expanding universe, it's far from perfect, and not trying to be.