A little more than a year after "Bad Moms" became the surprise hit of summer 2016, the inspirationally lax trio of mothers is back for another, more seasonally focused round in "A Bad Moms Christmas."
That was a fast turnaround - and it shows, with a good idea and a stellar cast lost inside a sloppy script that mostly retreads last year's laughs.
Writer-directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore have returned, along with stars Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn and Kristen Bell, playing put-upon parents sent to the brink by the demands of holiday decorating, gift wrapping and gingerbread house making.
And what do they get for all their hard work?
"Coupons for free back rubs," laments Bell's Kiki one evening while the three women are getting drunk at a mall food court. To add an extra layer of pressure this year, the mothers of Kiki, Amy (Kunis) and Carla (Hahn) are visiting for the holidays.
This is an ideal chance for the sequel to explore new territory; the complexity of mother-daughter dynamics could supply ample material for a movie, especially because each pairing is a little different.
Amy's mom, Ruth (Christine Baranski), is a snooty perfectionist who's never satisfied, and Kiki's mother, Sandy (Cheryl Hines), is so obsessed with her daughter that a restraining order might be necessary. Then there's Isis (Susan Sarandon), who pops out of the passenger seat of an 18-wheeler in front of Carla's house and immediately lights a joint. She hasn't been heard from in three years - since the last time she needed money - but now she's back to dote on her family at Easter.
"Christmas," Carla corrects. Whatever.
The push and pull between these mothers and daughters is neither as insightful nor as amusing as it could have been. Really, it's an excuse for the three original moms to revisit their arcs from the first time, when they were tearing their hair out in frustration until they reached their breaking point - causing major mayhem inside a grocery store. (This time the nearly shot-for-shot re-creation unfolds in a shopping mall, and the novelty has worn off.)
Stressed out moms deserve better.