‘Mother’s Day” is the third film built around a holiday from director Garry Marshall . It took three tries, but he finally worked out the bumps and fumbles that were apparent in his “Valentine’s Day” and “New Year’s Eve” movies.
Marshall uses the same formula of blending together multiple story lines for his light comedy “Mother’s Day,” but this time has better defined the plot and embraced the emotion. It’s not perfect, but it’s a sweet Mother’s Day gift.
With “Valentine’s Day,” the 2010 romantic comedy introduced the structure that Marshall has used in each of the three films. Just like the wonderfully made “Love Actually,” “Valentine’s Day” weaved together a host of romantic stories all played out on Cupid’s holiday. The film fell apart as the stories unraveled.
There’s no such problem with “Mother’s Day.” Marshall works with a script by Tom Hines and Lily Hollander that begins multiple tales, bounces around through each story and comes to a clever and smart end.
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The key story deals with Sandy (Jennifer Aniston), a divorced mother of two boys (Caleb Brown, Brandon Spink), who is blindsided by her ex-husband’s (Timothy Olyphant) announcement he’s remarried. The angst is compounded because the new wife (Shay Mitchell) doesn’t look old enough to vote in the next election.
This is mixed with the misadventures of sisters Jesse (Kate Hudson) and Gabi (Sarah Chalke) who have been lying to their mother for years about their love lives; Bradley (Jason Sudeikis), the widowed father of two young girls; and Kristin (Britt Robertson), a young mother with abandonment issues.
All of their stories unfold and occasionally crisscross in the days leading up to and including Mother’s Day.
It would have been easy for these stories to get jumbled as they did in “Valentine’s Day,” but Marshall deftly takes each from start to endearing end. He even tosses in a couple of touching moments that fit in well with all the light comedy.
Marshall gets help, unlike in “New Year’s Eve,” from much stronger performances. Julia Roberts and Hector Elizondo have been working together for so many years, it’s like watching two old friends when they share a stage. Aniston is very comfortable with her mom role and Margo Martindale is always a sure bet even when playing a narrow-minded bigot.
The love story between Robertson and Jack Whitehall has a lovely magic because both actors sell their roles so completely. Robertson is young, but she can handle tough emotional moments even in a scene with Julia Roberts.
Theirs is the only one of the multiple stories that digs deep into romantic comedy. The efforts for Marshall to generate laughs while dealing with romance in “Valentine’s Day” and “New Year’s Eve” never worked smoothly. Marshall has always been better when comedy comes out of family stories and that’s why “Mother’s Day” works better than the two previous films.
He shows that love among family members may get strained or even broken, but, it never goes away, as best depicted when Bradley’s daughters decide to celebrate Mother’s Day. There’s a purity to the love between a mother and child that creates nearly indestructible bonds, something Marshall embraces.
“Mother’s Day” is a lot like the handmade gifts moms receive. The edges might not be perfectly formed and the overall look is far from perfect, but the deep and real heart of the creation cannot be denied.
Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Kate Hudson, Margo Martindale, Hector Elizondo, Jason Sudeikis
Director: Garry Marshall
Rating: PG-13 (language, suggestive material)
Opens: Friday, April 29