Which unnecessary sequel to a broad hit comedy shoehorned into the holiday season will win out? Wellllllllll, the similarities between them are uncanny (they have basically the same ending, and even the promise of a Vegas-set spin-off), and it’ll largely be a matter of taste in which one you like better. “Bad Moms Christmas” is Rated R, whereas “Daddy’s Home 2” is more family friendly, but it also has arguably the crueler message as John Lithgow’s nice-guy dad is pretty much treated like garbage for enjoying time with his son, being a nice guy, and even has his long-time wife leave him for Captain Sully of all people. Ouch…
Bad Moms Christmas…Last year, “Bad Moms” became one of 2016’s few surprise hits, and since it’s impossible to leave a 100-million dollar plus grossing film alone, the Chinese-financiers of “Bad Moms” had to rush out a holiday sequel only 18 months after the original became a sleeper hit. This film smacks of cash-register-courting desperation, and there’s really no reason it should exist, but I did enjoy Kathryn Hahn (as always), and Susan Sarandon as her trash mother. Most of the movie’s best scenes involve pro-actresses like Christine Baranski and Sarandon comparing notes on their daughters and their own mothers, and to be honest I’d be more excited to watch a spin-off sequel featuring them. After all, the movie’s biggest drag is the supposed “plot” that involves Mila Kunis’s relentlessly sour rebelling against Christmas. “Fighting for the right” not to party, but to eat Chinese food and wear sweats on Christmas Eve isn’t exactly the catharsis the first “Bad Moms” movie was going for. Grade: C
Daddy’s Home Two…Although PG-13, this one is–in a way–an even wilder and meaner outing than “Bad Moms Christmas,” it’s also just a little bit more fun. It features low-brow slapstick gags and an off-the-charts cheesy karaoke climax, but much like “Moms” the grandparents (in this case, granddads) steal the show. Mel Gibson shows up as a cross between Kurt Russell’s aging good looks and Steve Bannon’s ideas, and his scenes practically crackle with Alt-Right mischief, the closest a Christmas comedy has ever had to a macho version of The Joker, as he seems to delight in tormenting and dividing everyone around him. But the movie’s real soul might be John Lithgow, about as far away as you can get from his Trump-like character in “Beatrice at Dinner,” and once again showing the underrated thespian’s immense range. Between the two movies, I felt more for his character than just about anyone, and scenes like a hysterical dad-off over “who’s messing with the thermostate” pack more honest, dumbass laughs than pretty much anything in “Bad Moms Christmas.” Grade: C+
Verdict: Neither movie is great, but the shrill scene where Mila Kunis tries to throw out her mother’s carefully selected and finely decorated Christmas tree made me wince more than laugh, and is just a little bit more painful than the mean “Daddy’s Home 2” improve-gone-wrong scene. Ultimately, “Daddy’s Home 2” wins this battle of mediocrity by the absolute thinnest of margins.