Ah, Nov. 1, the day after Halloween, now grudgingly acknowledged by retailers, the Hallmark Channel and — with the release of the raunchy but rote comedy “A Bad Moms Christmas” — the movie schedule to be the semiofficial start of the Christmas season.
The problem, in the case of this quick-and-dirty sequel to last summer’s “Bad Moms,” is that memories of this bawdy but ultimately cheesy comedy will be as stale as Thanksgiving leftovers before the Macy’s parade starts.
The sequel reacquaints audiences with three suburban moms — constant striver Amy (Mila Kunis), mousy Kiki (Kristen Bell) and foul-mouthed Carla (Kathryn Hahn) — as they tackle the Super Bowl of motherhood: Christmas. Mothers, Amy’s early voiceover tells us, are the ones who make Christmas happen, since they buy all the gifts, decorate the house, wrap the presents, bake the cookies and spend every moment making it all perfect.
But perfect isn’t perfect enough when the ladies face their ultimate test: the arrival of their moms. Kiki must deal with her clingy mom, Sandy (Cheryl Hines), while Carla is reunited with her fast-living tumbleweed of a mother, Isis (Susan Sarandon).
And Amy finds her relaxed attitude to the holiday and her attempts to enjoy time with her kids (Oona Laurence, Emjay Anthony) and newish boyfriend, Jessie (Jay Hernandez), are challenged by her mom, Ruth (Christine Baranski). Ruth is a stern perfectionist who orchestrates every Christmas event down to microscopic detail and criticizes Amy for everything she thinks her daughter is doing wrong.
Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, returning as the franchise’s writing-directing team, throw a lot of jokes at the screen and hope that some of the grosser ones will stick. A few elements generate solid laughs, such as Carla’s surprising romance with a stripper (played by “This Is Us” hunk Justin Hartley), Baranski’s over-the-top caroling, or Sarandon and Hahn’s sharp byplay as dysfunctional mother and daughter. But just as often, the movie spins its wheels, delivering too few laughs from the talent available.
And, as with the first “Bad Moms,” Lucas and Moore expect these women not only to be bad, but also to show how good they are underneath. The promise of “A Bad Moms Christmas” being a taboo-shattering comedy that attacks the Martha Stewart view of a “perfect” Christmas is undercut by a sappy resolution that forces the moms to sell out their independence for more cookie-cutter holiday conformity.
A Bad Moms Christmas
The rebel mothers are back to tackle Christmas, and their own moms, in this hit-and-miss sequel.
Where • Theaters everywhere.
When • Opens Wednesday, Nov. 1.
Rating • R for crude sexual content and language throughout, and some drug use.
Running time • 104 minutes.