Mother's Day review – Jennifer Aniston and Julia Roberts in skin-crawlingly smug romcom

With bland emotional manipulation, Garry Marshall’s follow-up to Valentine’s Day is as funny as a fire in an asbestos factory neighbouring a children’s hospital

“Hey! What are you doing for Mother’s Day?” says no normal human being ever. But they do in this film, the third in an escalatingly creepy series of sentimental “day”-themed ensemble romcoms from director Garry Marshall, following Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve. The next in the series could be Hitler’s Birthday with Jennifer Aniston as Eva Braun, Kate Hudson as Leni Riefenstahl and Julia Roberts as Rommel. It couldn’t be as offensive and reactionary as this skin-crawlingly smug film set in upscale Atlanta, Georgia: the white part of town, evidently, with one south Asian guy permitted to have a halfway important speaking role, on condition that he is the subject of racist gags and that his emollient forgiveness permits picturesque ageing bigots to regain their essential lovability.

The idea is that Mother’s Day is coming (deeply important) and all the adorable characters must deal with their emotions about being moms, about being kids of moms, and about – choke! – the mom of their kids, who is now dead. Jason Sudeikis is the cute widower who visits the grave of his kids’ dead mom but who is also destined to cop off with kooky divorcee Jennifer Aniston. Julia Roberts plays an uptight jewellery designer in a frigid Anna Wintour hairdo, richly eligible for redemption through motherhood. Jack Whitehall plays a milky-faced new dad. There’s a gay character and a character married to that south Asian guy: uproarious gags about their mixed-race kid called Tanner. It’s as feelgood and life-affirming as a fire in an asbestos factory neighbouring a children’s hospital.


Peter Bradshaw

The GuardianTramp

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