Firstly, it's a Garry Marshall rom-com; therefore the average critic's response was never going to be great. Secondly, $3M for an actress of Julia Robert's calibre is not out of the ordinary. I mean heck, Christopher Lambert took $2M for 2-days work on MEAN GUNS in 1997 (most of the film's budget). So if people relaxed a little and took the movie for what it's worth, then perhaps it might fair well.
The story follows a group of characters in the days leading up to Mother's Day and, much like the other two movies, it entwines their stories. A grieving husband, a successful entrepreneur, two progressive sisters, a girlfriend with cold feet and a single mother... if you're a rom-com connoisseur then you'll be able to piece it all together together from that information alone, and the rest of you will get there eventually long before the film is over. So it's formulaic, predictable and incredibly schmaltzy... but to its credit it never presumes to be anything else.
Garry Marshall has been making romantic comedies for over thirty years and he knows the genre like the back of his hand. He's had his fair share of duds over the years (EXIT TO EDEN, RUNAWAY BRIDE) and he's had his triumphs (BEACHES, PRETTY WOMAN). MOTHER'S DAY is neither - although it is the best of his holiday trilogy. The film hasn't any pretensions and the material is, for the most part, suitability mawkish and deceptively endearing. Marshall is 81-years old and for him to deliver a movie at all is no mean feat, let alone one that has socially progressive undertones and references to technology that his generation would struggle to comprehend. Maybe I'm being agist, but I find that incredible.
The cast are all good, with the notable standout being Jack Whitehall as an amateur comedian - his scenes are wonderful. Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Jason Sudeikis and Kate Hudson offer competent performances that never overshadow one another. Hector Elizondo does what he does best, which is appearing in his best-mate's film to lend words of wisdom when they are needed most. The Marshall/Elizondo partnership is a thing of beauty and they'll always have my attention. Some other appearances include Timothy Olyphant, Jennifer Garner, Jon Lovitz and Larry Miller... plus a stack of other familiar faces.
MOTHER'S DAY is not a masterpiece, but it is a likeable and pleasing movie. If they'd removed a few poorly-conceived set-pieces, trimmed the running time by 10-minutes and removed Penny Marshall's HIDEOUS opening narration, then I'd be declaring this one “great”. But hey, I can settle for “really good”. Take your mum to see it. Go on.... “she raised you, bro!”*
*lame joke reference for frequent Aussie movie-goers.