“Let me tell ’em it was growing pains – the wrong execution of the right idea.” Wayne Tippet as “Sergeant Major Kevin Moreland” in the 1981 film Taps.
Sergeant Major Moreland’s comment above might be the best explanation of what happened to Mother’s Day. Director Garry Marshall has had a long, distinguished career in Hollywood. As a writer, TV series creator and as a film director. His filmography includes gems like Beaches, Pretty Woman and The Princess Diaries. Then beginning in 2010 he released the first of what is now three ensemble cast films that take place around big holidays. First was Valentine’s Day which wasn’t great but it was watchable. That was followed a year later by New Year’s Eve which was not as good as Valentine’s Day. Six years later we get Mother’s Day which has a great cast whose talents are obscured by a bad movie. The movie begins a few days before the titular holiday and takes place in Atlanta.
Jennifer Aniston is “Sandy” who is a divorcee with two young sons and life is good. Well, up until her ex-husband “Henry” (Timothy Olyphant) surprises her with the fact that he eloped with a much younger woman named “Tina” (Shay Mitchell). That’s just the first of several surprises that Henry has for Sandy.
Sandy is in search of more work as a designer and she has a chance to present a potential stage design to “Miranda” (Julia Roberts) who is a successful author and seller of jewelry on the Home Shopping Network. Miranda is dedicated to her career and seems to have no personal life outside of work. Her manager, “Lance” (Hector Elizondo) seems to be her only connection to the outside world. But there is a link from her to “Kristin” (Britt Robertson).
Kristin has a boyfriend “Zack” (Jack Whitehall) and the two of them have a daughter. Zack would give anything to have Kristin agree to marry him but she seems dead set against it. Zack is an aspiring comedian who is hoping to win a big comedy contest as a local club.
Meanwhile “Jesse” (Kate Hudson) and her sister “Gabi” (Sarah Chalke) are living next door to each other and keeping their romantic lives secret from their parents “Flo” (Margo Martindale) and “Earl” (Robert Pine). Jesse has been estranged from her mother for years and Gabi decides just before Mother’s Day is the right moment to try to heal that rift.
There is another story arc involving a father and his two daughters where he is mourning the loss of his wife, a U.S. Marine lost in a combat zone but the above is more detail that necessary to articulate the fact that there is just too much going on here. There are moments of laughter, only a few of which are slapstick. But the intersecting story arcs seem far too contrived. Julia Roberts gives the best performance, showing the emotional range that earned her a Best Actress Oscar years ago. There is no question that this movie is a tribute to mothers everywhere. Other than that, there is little to recommend in a movie that put a gigantic C in the word Cloying.