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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

According to comedy gospel, laughs must outnumber sermons

Posted: 05/9/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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From left, Sarah Drew, Patricia Heaton, Abbie Cobb and David Hunt show that the best acting is reacting.

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From left, Sarah Drew, Patricia Heaton, Abbie Cobb and David Hunt show that the best acting is reacting.

If you think the title Moms' Night Out suggests a sexy farce, you're half right.

In fact, the film is an altogether different hybrid: a Christian farce, sans slamming doors and salacious misunderstandings.

Hence, between the frenetic PG-rated hijinks, we get interludes of dialogue pertaining to our heroine worrying about living up to God's expectations.

So be wary, you gals seeking saucy ladies-night entertainment this Mother's Day weekend. In this kind of farce, the doors will only be slamming on your libidinous expectations.

Alysson (Sarah Drew of Grey's Anatomy) is a stay-at-home mom in crisis. She's got a pretty sweet life with a nice house and three adorable, healthy children. Her good-natured husband Sean (Sean Astin) travels a lot for his job. That leaves Alysson feeling overwhelmed and doubtful of her ability to be a good mom, a problem manifest in her inability to write a coherent entry in her mommy-blog. As much as one sympathizes with a sleep-deprived, over-extended young mother, the movie doesn't really raise the stakes of her crisis as much as it could.

Seeking a respite, Alysson decides on an evening of female bonding with her dim bestie Izzy (Andrea Logan White) and the no-nonsense Sondra (Patricia Heaton).

No Chippendales crotch-thrusting boogaloo for these girls: Sondra is married to the local pastor, and she's not afraid to sermonize when required.

Their dinner plans go awry due to a mix-up at a snooty restaurant. An improvised Plan B goes awry at a bowling alley when Alysson is obliged to inform her tough, single-mom sister-in-law (Abbie Cobb) that her baby isn't being watched by her ex-husband, as promised, because he is across the street in the posh restaurant with some beautiful woman.

Thus begins a nerve-jangling hunt for the missing baby, exacerbated by the fact both Sean and Izzy's idiotic, child-phobic husband (Robert Amaya) are making a mess of the one night they have to take care of the kids. (Given this movie's archaic depiction of bumbling dads, the possibility arises that maybe this movie was supposed to be set in the '50s. But closer scrutiny reveals the presence of smartphones and Tasers and a dearth of '57 Chevrolets. So... no.)

Country singer Trace Adkins shows up as a helpful tattoo artist called Bones. He is called upon to punch out a druggy malefactor and deliver a soothing climactic sermon to Alysson. If those seem like contradictory duties, Adkins rolls over it with that distinctive distant-thunder voice, suggestive of a slowly rolling oil barrel filled with honey-soaked gravel.

The whole enterprise might be easier to take if it were funny. The filmmakers, brother Andrew and Jon Erwin, have evidently watched a lot of movies and they know how to make something that looks and sounds like a real comedy. But when it comes to winning any authentic laughs, the film feels hollow and imitative.

This movie is about the sermon. The "comedy" is just the delivery system.

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 9, 2014 D3

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