Garry Marshall’s popular pseudo-franchise of holiday-themed comedies has become as irritating as contemporary pseudo-holidays. Once again, we get a bunch of loosely-connected stories surrounding a holiday theme: two sisters (Kate Hudson and Sarah Chalke) hiding their romantic lives from their bigoted mother (Margo Martindale); a divorced mom (Jennifer Aniston) struggling with her ex-husband’s re-marriage; a widower (Jason Sudeikis) still grieving while trying to parent his two daughters; etc. And once again, those stories are edited together so miserably that whatever emotional impact they might have been able to build is lost in all the interruptions. Instead, the primary emotion this movie generates is aggravation: that its studied pose at being modern and inclusive is undercut by some truly horrifying “jokes;” that every story takes the most obvious old-school sit-com arc; that there still exists a place where someone thinks it’s hilariously original for a grocery store clerk to scream out a price check when a guy buys feminine hygiene products. A couple of well-crafted performances are the only thing that can be salvaged from the wreckage of a movie that takes every sentimental notion about the institution of motherhood and stomps them to dust.
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