My wife and I had the opportunity over the weekend to watch Mom’s Night Out. I am probably 4 or 5 months behind with this review (I think the movie came out in May), but we have children; the days of seeing movies during their theatrical run are no more. We have to schedule a sitter like weeks in advance, and with a movie like this, by the time that can all be arranged, it’s gone from the theaters. We have to do the Netflix route.
This was probably one of the better so-called “Christian” movies I have seen in a long time. It was excellent in all the major categories where “Christian” movies seem to always faceplant in an epic fail sort of way: Good acting, a fun script, excellent production value. Even more surprising was how great it worked as a comedy, because the characters and situations reflected so well our lives as a married couple with kids, sans the big house, designer clothes, and high end mini-van. But I’ll get to that in a moment.
The movie centers around Allyson, a dutiful wife and mother who is becoming frazzled as she frets over her abilities in those roles of wife and mother. She worries about how well she maintains her home, how she raises her kids, if she’s there for her husband, and whether she gives the appearance of having it all together for her friends.
Surrounding her is her good pal Izzy and the pastor’s wife, Sondra. Allyson arranges a “mom’s night out” for her and her two friends at a fancy restaurant, and of course, through a series of serendipitous events (or better, acts of providence), all sorts of comedic mayhem unfolds and life lessons are learned.
The movie, as I noted, works in all the ways Christian films typically do not. That may be because the producers actually work in LA and know the business much better than outside companies, say for instance, in Colorado or the deep south somewhere.
Be that as it may, first, the production team managed to pull together a superb cast of players. Samwise Gamgee is the long-suffering husband to Allyson and Debra Barone from Everyone Loves Raymond is the pastor’s wife, Sondra. I want to say it was Debra and her real-life husband who were behind the production. The talent of the cast certainly adds a measure of excellence that is often times missing from films like this.
It was clear the writers are familiar with the audience they intended to reach. The writing is also crisp and engaging, and the comedy worked well; never did it come across as “forced” for the purposes of getting a laugh. My wife and I were both amused with the various conversations our mom Allyson talked with herself about. The opening montage that introduces us to her was a running commentary on my wife’s life. The same can be said about her supporting friends. A lot of them reflect our friends in real life.
And the production was well done. For a movie intended to be a “Christian,” or maybe more along the lines of a “Red state Evangelical” movie, none of the cheapness and cheesiness flashed before our eyes pretending to be serious film making. Of course, I have in mind the gold standard for all bad Christian movies, A Thief in the Night, that birthed generations of anti-fundy, anti-homeschooling Patheos blogging atheists. In other words, this was not that. I was glad Mom’s Night Out wasn’t the Sharknado of Christian family films.
The question among my circle of Reformed, Bibley-oriented friends is going to be: How “Christian” was this movie really? Apart from a few scenes taking place at what appears to be a large, SBC facility, Sondra the pastor’s wife bringing the occasional comedic timing, and a big, loveable teddy bear biker guy reminding Allyson that she can be a good mom and wife because Jesus loves her, the movie isn’t in your face about the Gospel or Christianity.
Some may see that as a slight. I don’t necessarily. Certainly my friends and I will talk more of Christ and how He matters to us, but what the film may have skipped over as far as the Christian faith, the underlining theme was certainly Christian. Now, whether the film makers intended to dumb-down the Jesus talk or not in order to reach a secular audience, I couldn’t tell. I mean, they had one supporting character talk about Jesus specifically, and not the generic “God.”
Could the characters have spoken more about Christ? Sure. But, I did appreciate what components to may faith were present. I liked that Allyson was a stay-at-home mother, not a woman conflicted with having to juggle her successful career and her commitment to her family. She cared about her abilities to love her husband and children. Her friends were the same way. Her husband was a faithful, loving man that cared about her sanity. When the moms do their night out thing, the fathers were not portrayed as these sexed up teenagers that turn into a bunch of idiots with kids. They are responsible and fun. Sondra, the pastor’s wife, who worries about the direction her teenage daughter is taking, has a great talk with her about why she has those concerns. There was a lot of good material along those lines.
The one area where I think the film could have improved is with a bit more diversity among the characters. Everyone was white. Like when you go into Wal-Mart in Seacy, Arkansas. They were also upper middle-class families that lived in massive homes and were more than well off financially.
I don’t point that out because I have a missional streak or am all self-righteously indignant with my multicultural proclivities and I feel I need to expose some ignored hypocrisy. Nothing of the sort.
Perhaps it is because I live in LA, one of the largest metropolitan cities in the nation, but the church folks I am friends with come from a variety of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. What I love about our church is the fact that the diversity of the body of Christ is displayed among my friends with people from all parts of the world from all different kinds stations in life, and yet we all have the same focus in Christ, as well as the same struggles Allyson has when it comes to raising our families and trying to be wise parents. It would had been nice to have seen those differences portrayed for us.
Overall, this was a good movie. If you and your spouse need a date night, this would be a stellar movie for you. I honestly hope they consider making a sequel called Dad’s Night Out with the same characters. I think it would be an equally fun movie. Though, if it’s the kind of dad’s nights I personally like, the movie would be a boring 90 minutes of watching a guy meander around in a used book store with a cup of coffee.