A Humorous Ode to Mothers
Moms’ Night Out is a feel-good comedy with heart that the whole family will enjoy.
Sony’s Christian film division, Provident Films, has come a long way since its partnership with Sherwood Pictures’ (Sherwood Baptist Church) earliest film, Flywheel. With the release of Moms’ Night Out (which is not a Sherwood production), Provident has produced its most commercially viable and broadly entertaining film to date. You could say that Provident Films has come of age.
Moms’ Night Out is a feel-good comedy with heart. It’s a genuinely funny ode to motherhood and all of its challenges.
Brothers Andrew and John Erwin (the writers who brought us October Baby) have produced a very fun, entertaining and real look at the struggles and doubts of the stay-at-home mother.
Approximately 30% of U.S. mothers stay at home with their children, a number that has been rising in recent years, as more women are making the choice to raise their own children rather than having someone else raise them while they enter the workforce. This film, unlike most movies about motherhood, both appreciates and respects stay-at-home moms, recognizing the genuine sacrifices that they make. You don’t have to be a stay-at-home mother, though, to enjoy the film.
Enter stay-at-home mother and self-described “mommy blogger” Allyson (convincingly and charmingly played by Grey’s Anatomy’s Sarah Drew). Her husband, Sean (Lord of the Rings’ Sean Astin), is loving and supportive, but he is frequently on the road in his work as an architect, leaving Allyson with three young children who make a wreck of the house, color the walls and play in the toilet.
The film has a cast that will appeal to both mainstream and Christian audiences. It includes several high-profile actors. In addition to Drew and Astin, Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond) practically steals the show as Sondra, pastor’s wife to real-life pastor Alex Kendrick (of Sherwood Pictures’ fame). Country music star Trace Adkins plays Bones, a biker with a checkered past.
Heaton’s real-life husband, producer (The Dead Pool and Amazing Grace) and actor David Hunt, plays a British taxi driver. Familiar character actor Brett Rice (Forrest Gump, Super 8 and Edward Scissorhands) has a small role as a police sergeant. The film also features faces that will be familiar from other Provident Films, such as Kevin Downes, Kendrick and Robert Amaya, all from Courageous.
Moms’ Night Out centers on how Allyson, her friend Izzy (Logan White) and Sondra decide they are in need of a night out. So Allyson reserves a table at a five-star restaurant, leaving Sean, Izzy’s irrationally fearful husband, Marco (Robert Amaya), and Sean’s childhood friend and gamer Kevin (Downes) in charge of the children.
In a couple of scenes, the film cleverly weaves the world of electronic communication into the film, first as we see Allyson typing content for her blog and later during a scene when various characters are texting one another during a book club at Sondra’s home, where the texting and the characters’ expressions effectively take the place of traditional dialogue. It’s a bow to modern technology and its too-prominent place in our lives — an element that plays a significant factor in the hijinks that follows.
The dads take their children to a restaurant/indoor playhouse. When Allyson’s reservations don’t work out at the highbrow restaurant, she decides to take the other women to a nearby bowling alley. There, they meet Sean’s sister, Bridget (Abbie Cobb), and through various circumstances, the women learn that Bridget’s baby, Phoenix, has been left with Bones at a tattoo parlor. The mothers’ natural instincts kick in as they band together to find the missing baby.
Needless to say, hilarity ensues, as the dads find it necessary to go to the hospital and the moms end up in jail. Its pure entertainment, with odd characters, a chase scene and comedic situations all played for laughs along the way.
The film doesn’t have a “come to Jesus” moment, but it also doesn’t shy away from depicting the faith life of its characters. It’s obvious that many of the characters attend Pastor Ray’s (Kendrick) Baptist church, and in one touching scene late in the film, the movie’s least likely character isn’t afraid to talk about Christ.
It all works very well together. While exaggerated, it’s mostly believable. The characters are not cookie-cutter. They are real.
Sondra, who at first seems very prim and proper and the picture of perfection as a pastor’s wife, has depth. The film effectively conveys her struggles in her role: trying to raise a rebellious teenage daughter and constantly being asked for advice in place of having real friendships with others.
Allyson, too, is realistic and convincing as an overwhelmed mother who compares herself to others and never quite feels that she’s “good enough.”
There’s very little not to like. Anyone expecting something deep or profound here will be disappointed. Some will complain that the film has a trite ending or that because it lacks the darkness found in other films that it somehow comes up short. Ignore such commentary.
It’s truly refreshing to see healthy marriages and relationships depicted on film in a clean comedy that you can take the entire family to see.
Mothers and fathers will find much they can identify with in the film and its characters. Take a mother you love to see it.
Tim Drake writes from St. Joseph, Minnesota.
Caveat Spectator: mild peril and an automobile-pedestrian accident; fine family viewing.