An awkward effort to mix screwball comedy with an earnest, uplifting Christian message is the downfall of Moms’ Night Out. Despite its saucy title, it’s not raunchy enough to attract the Bridesmaids crowd, and the spiritual aspect comes and goes so sporadically that it interrupts the narrative (such as it is) instead of adding a dimension of depth. And this movie could use some depth. Along with an actual plot, and less use of the word “awesome.”
Directed by Andrew Erwin and Jon Erwin, known for developing stories of redemption, faith and triumph of the human spirit, Moms’ Night Out explores the plight of Allyson (Sarah Drew), a stay-at-home mother of three youngsters whose husband, Sean (Sean Astin), has some sort of builder’s job that requires him to travel much of the time. Handling the household and her lively children is challenging, especially since Allyson strives for perfection, right down to keeping her house spotlessly clean (good luck with that) and being an exemplary member of her church, which is well populated with exemplary members who exhibit signs of smugness.
Allyson is so overwhelmed that even her half-hearted efforts to become a mommy blogger are unsuccessful, reducing her to spending her blog time watching a live eagle-cam feed on her computer and envying the bird for … something. Being a wife and mother “was my dream; I am literally living it, and I’m not happy,” she says — understandable coming from a woman who drives a minivan in which the radio volume can’t be adjusted because apple juice has been poured on it.
After whimpering in the arms of her sympathetic but clueless husband about how she hasn’t worn a pair of high heels in two years, Allyson orders up a Groupon for a posh restaurant and recruits a couple of girly pals to enjoy a dinner outing with her: Sondra (Patricia Heaton), the church pastor’s wife, and Izzy (Andrea Logan White), Allyson’s friend since elementary school.
These ladies have issues of their own that require temporary escape. Capable Sondra is frustrated with teenage daughter Zoe (Sammi Hanratty), who finds being a preacher’s kid rather constricting. Izzy (a character who’s composed so poorly that she brings nothing to the story) seems OK except for having married nervous, fearful, childish buffoon Marco (Robert Amaya).
So after arranging childcare with their husbands, the threesome spruces up (complete with high heels), pile in the minivan, and head out for an evening of conversation and fine food (no drinks, though; that’s made clear from the get-go).
Things start to go wrong immediately, starting with a run-in with the restaurant’s hostess (Anjelah Johnson, providing one of the film’s more successful moments) and becoming more complicated and ludicrous every minute. Unfortunately, the situations seldom succeed in being funny. It doesn’t help that there is no true conflict, only an array of misunderstandings.
Drew (who plays the Christian character of Dr. April Kepner on Grey’s Anatomy) is as good as she needs to be in an undemanding role, and Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond, The Middle) is obviously overqualified. The most compelling character is a tattoo artist and biker named Bones (Trace Adkins), who gallantly comes to the ladies’ aid when one of the above-mentioned misunderstandings brings about a run-in with the law. Bones’ drawling, bass-voiced advice on how to handle an increasingly bizarre circumstance without once saying “awesome” makes for several amusing scenes, until the script forces him to clumsily switch to a faith-based speech meant to inspire down-on-herself Allyson.
Near the end of the Moms’ Night Out, if you’re still paying attention, you might discover that Bones’ effort has paid off. “I’m a mess, but I’m a beautiful mess,” says an encouraged Allyson. The same could be said for this film. Minus the beauty.
Moms’ Night Out
83 Cast: Sarah Drew, Sean Astin, Patricia Heaton, Trace Adkins Directors: Andrew Erwin, Jon Erwin Rating: PG Running time: 98 minutes
Print Headline: Mom's Night Out