Bad Moms Christmas DATEWORTHY? YES!
This sequel to the surprise 2016 hit tones down the original movie’s raunch somewhat and plays up some positive family messages, and finds the sweet spot to be the funniest movie by miles this year. Only the most uptight will have a problem with this.
Thor: Ragnarok DATEWORTHY? YES!
The third film in the “Thor” trilogy finds a fresh point of view from its prolific director while amping up the laughs and action to an unbelievably entertaining level. There’s something for everyone here.
After a mostly dreadful year at the multiplex, Christmas is coming early this weekend with the debuts of two terrifically entertaining new movies. “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Bad Moms Christmas” may both be sequels, but both show that filmmakers and actors can still bring their A-game to what might seem like B-movies.
They’re both great date movies too, packed with entertaining moments from start to finish that should spark conversation and elevate the mood of anyone imaginable. Each of these two films delivers at the highest possible level, making them a guaranteed great way to spend some dough and ensure a good time.
I’ll spotlight “Bad” first because for me, it was the bigger surprise of the two.
Building off the surprise summer 2016 hit “Bad Moms,” the film picks up on the adventures of Amy (Mila Kunis), Carla (Kathryn Hahn) and Kiki (Kristen Bell) as they deal with the pressures of putting on a perfect Christmas with their respective moms visiting for the holidays.
The first movie centered on the three as harried suburban moms who became fed up with the pressure of comparisons to other PTA-dominating mothers and decided to cut loose with their approach to parenting and life in general. The new film shows their new approaches in full swing, but having to contend with Kiki’s mom Sandy (Cheryl Hines) being way too clingy, Amy’s mom Ruth (Christine Baranski) being a domineering perfectionist and Carla’s mom Isis (Susan Sarandon) being an unpredictable hellcat.
Over the course of the six days leading into Christmas, they fall into a rapid-fire series of misadventures that are alternately sweet and raunchy, but always clever. This new edition tones down the excesses of the first “Moms” just enough to be more broadly palatable, while showing a surprising amount of heart.
The first “Moms” had some really gross moments, but the new one reins it in enough that most adults should have no problem with it. I sat next to a fundamentalist Christian critic from another site who laughed loudly throughout, so rest doubly assured that this is a good time for all but the most uptight.
“Moms” does have a typical level of foul language, a couple of scenes where pot smoking is played for laughs, and one scene that involves a male stripper being waxed by Carla with no private parts actually showing, just discussed. Other crude jokes are scattered throughout, but the film also has a surprisingly strong spiritual side as the families go to church on Christmas Eve and have touching reconciliations, and many laughs come from non-raunchy moments too.
I literally didn’t think there was any genuine way that this film could fit in as a Christmas flick, but writer-directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (reprising their jobs from the first film) genuinely care about their characters and that shines through in every moment. Being authentic to their quirks and foibles also helps to make them universal and thus eminently relatable and all the more funny.
The entire cast is winning, but Hahn is a comic force of nature who deserves superstardom at the level of Melissa McCarthy, and yesterday. Comedies have suffered at the box office for the past couple of years, but that’s because they have generally been too crude or not funny enough. “Bad Moms Christmas” delivers on every level and should be a rich source of laughs throughout the holiday season.
Meanwhile, “Thor: Ragnarok” serves up the third set of cinematic adventures for the Marvel superhero (Chris Hemsworth), this time teaming him to great comic effect with the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).
The movie opens with Thor chained inside a cage as he humorously explains his predicament to the audience, but after a quick and impressive battle, he’s back in his home at Asgard, where he finds that his mischievous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has been disguising himself as Odin (Anthony Hopkins), their father.
But before they can argue too much, the brothers learn that they have an older sister named Hela (Cate Blanchett), aka the Goddess of Death. She destroys Thor’s hammer and strives to steal control of the throne in Asgard, with the brothers having to overcome their constant bickering to bring her down.
Yet the two brothers wind up on the planet of Sakaar, where Thor is forced to engage in a gladiatorial competition against the Hulk. After a hilarious and exciting battle royale, the two team up and flee back to Asgard to down Hela while accompanied by colorful allies.
Some Marvel fans balk at the level of humor brought into play in the “Thor” trilogy, but the comedic aspects bring a fresh energy to a genre that’s been overwhelmed with seemingly dozens of epics. How Hemsworth isn’t a superstar both inside and out of the “Thor” franchise is beyond me, because he pairs looks and wit admirable action skills to craft a distinctive persona that radiates off the screen. Blanchett is an eminently worthy adversary, bringing fierce humor and fury to her role as the villainous Hela.
Anyone who’s seen a Marvel movie knows the drill on its moral content: Very little profanity, no sex or nudity, tons of violence but at a fantasy level that no one could possibly take seriously or be traumatized by.
“Ragnarok” also benefits from the fresh perspective of director Taika Waititi, who moves up to the big leagues here after two highly original New Zealand comedies in “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” and “What We Do in the Shadows.”
Marvel is showing an admirable willingness to find unique voices and fresh approaches that its rival DC— largely bogged down by director Zach Snyder and his utterly depressing style and pacing— would do well to emulate.