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Movie Review

This ‘Mother’s Day’ is a celebration of schmaltz

Jennifer Aniston stars as a divorced mom in “Mother’s Day.”Ron Batzdorff/Open Road Films

Yet another sentimental holiday falls to the schmaltzy, vulgar, manipulative, and mawkish vision of Garry Marshall (“Pretty Woman”).

His “Valentine’s Day” (2010) soured that occasion for lovers (or at least lovers of cinema). His “New Year’s Eve” (2011) besmirched that festive celebration of old times, times to come, and morning-after hangovers.

Now, he is targeting motherhood. And his “Mother’s Day” is the worst of the bunch.

In this endless comedy, Marshall tries to be all-inclusive in his depiction of mothers.

There is a divorced mother (Jennifer Aniston) whose ex has remarried, and a single mother (Britt Robertson) who has repeatedly turned down marriage proposals from the boyfriend who fathered her child.


There is a gay mother (Sarah Chalke), and the homophobic mother (Margo Martindale) of that gay mother, who does not know that her daughter is gay.

There is a dead mother (played in a bizarre cameo by Jennifer Garner). And there is another mother (Kate Hudson) afraid to tell her judgmental mother (Martindale again) that she has married an Indian man. Plus, there is a mother who has swapped childbearing for a career and therefore is fated to become Julia Roberts with a vacant smile and an unfortunate wig.

This movie has every mother imaginable except any who are non-white (though there is an African-American mother who does a pole dance) or poor. And none, in the long run, have the slightest doubt that motherhood is a woman’s ultimate goal in life.

Despite an execrable script by committee and ham-fisted direction by the 81-year-old Marshall, some performances prevail. Aniston displays subtle timing and a winning air of resignation as the divorcée who must endure the humiliation of watching her two sons being wooed by her ex’s new trophy wife. Roberts, resembling a toothy sphinx with a copper-colored Louise Brooks’s bob, brings a frightening archness to her role as a revered QVC-style huckster. Plus, she’s the funniest one in the wacky end-credit outtakes.


As expected, “Mother’s Day” has even more neatly resolved happy endings than it has screenwriters (five) — at least one for each unhappy character. It’s like a nightmare in which you are trapped in an endless Kmart aisle of horrible holiday cards.


Directed by Garry Marshall. Written by Marshall, Lily Hollander, Matt Walker, Tom Hines, and Anya Kochoff Romano. Starring Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Julia Roberts, Jason Sudeikis. At Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs. 118 minutes. PG-13 (language and some suggestive material).

Peter Keough can be reached at petervkeough@gmail.com.