Allyson’s life is a disaster. Or at least that’s how it feels.
It’s not that this pretty young mom isn’t smart and warmhearted and capable. And it’s not that her husband, Sean, isn’t a loving, supporting guy. It’s just that in spite of all that, Ally’s afraid she’s about ready to have something of a nervous breakdown.
She’s got three kids, you see. Three typical tykes who can turn a tidied-up room into a disheveled, toy-scattered, crayon mark-covered ruin two-and-a-half seconds after they crash into it. And to a clean freak like Ally, that’s … let’s just say, a bit stressful.
Then there’s the feeding frenzies, the toilet tragedies, the screaming squabbles. Why, just getting everybody fully dressed and off to church can be the equivalent of herding blind cats through an active avalanche.
Thankfully, Ally’s best friend, Izzy, understands. She may not exactly be the type to offer a shoulder to cry on, but she’s ready to listen and commiserate with an understanding snarl or two. And if they can catch Sondra, the pastor’s wife, at the right time, she’s usually a small fount of experienced wisdom, too.
If only the three of them could all just get away by themselves at some point. Just a few hours of separation from yelling children, needy husbands and ringing cellphones. A moms’ night out, you could call it. That’s what they need. A little time at a nice restaurant where they can share a good meal together. Talk. Relax. Be pretty. Unwind. That would be bliss.
Because what in the Christian comedy world could go wrong with a perfect scenario like that?
Well. Since you asked the question. When it comes to childrearing, there’s always something that can go wrong. And in this case it does. All of it. But through the oncoming calamity with kids, cars, cops and trips to the clink, there’s no question that Ally and Sean are fully committed to each other and their kids. They’ve got each other’s back and want only the best for each other, evidenced in part by Sean repeatedly volunteering to take care of the kids himself for a night so Ally can get away for a few hours. And as things begin winding down at the end of the night, the two also discuss God’s hand in their commitment and make it plain that nothing will shake them apart.
Other couples we meet here also reflect that sacred resolve. And Sondra and her teen daughter Zoe reinforce their love for each other, too. They had been fighting over typical mom/daughter issues—from boys to short skirts. (Which are sort of related, now that I think about it.) But when the potato chips are down, Zoe comes to her mom’s aid, lamenting that she’s not as “perfect” as she should be as a pastor’s daughter. Sondra admits to her own flaws and draws her daughter close.
Ally comes flying to the aid of her husband’s sister when the young single mom “loses” her son. And it should be noted that Ally does so at great personal inconvenience. You might even say she completely sacrifices her own desperately needed moms’ night out to make sure Bridget’s OK and help her track down her handed-off tot. She’s not the only one, though. Everyone from cops to a cabbie to a gang of bikers called the Skulls all pitch in to help.
We hear part of a sermon at church. A joke plays off the “it’s biblical!” retort. Sondra tells a worrier, “Life is not about God taking away all our problems. He’s with us on the good days and the bad days.” An oversized biker/tattoo artist named Bones talks of having drifted away from the faith—but he also remembers waiting up each night for his own hard-working single mom to come home and tell him of the comforting love and grace of Jesus, about how He would always be there for you with His arms open wide. Bones points out to Ally that she worries too much about being a supermom, when all she really has to do is work with the strengths God has given her and be the loving mom she is. “And that’s enough,” he assures her.
The movie digs up a few laughs at a hoity-toity restaurant with a “spiritualist” vibe. The hostess rambles on about auras and the affected attitudes of her “visionary” manager. When Sondra’s daughter states that she’s never getting a tattoo, Sondra sighs out, “Thank you, Jesus.”
Zoe shows her mom a pair of skimpy shorts she hopes to wear on a date; Sondra quickly nixes the idea. Ally and Sean kiss.
A crazy car chase has Ally hanging out of a window and a cab crashing into trash cans. Bones waves around a shotgun. He hoists a guy up off his feet, head-butts him hard and then tosses him aside. Bridget sprays pepper spray in her ex’s face, slapping at him. A guy’s hit by the cab (on purpose), bouncing up onto the hood and dropping to the ground. A frazzled cop accidentally Tases Sondra, who falls to the floor convulsing. Sean dislocates his shoulder and painfully keeps slamming the jammed joint into hard surfaces trying to reset it.
Ally imagines worst-case scenarios for the kids and their adult male caretakers in her absence. In one daydream, the guys are tied up and stumbling around while the kids play violent video games. (It’s worth noting that in “real life,” Sean and a buddy do play such games, and we see snippets of an onscreen gun battle.) In another imagined scenario, Sean’s roustabout pal is about to let the children play with a large hunting knife. We see images of a nuclear bomb detonating … and a doll getting torched.
No profanity. Name-calling includes “tramp,” “loser” and “pathetic primitive.”
At a bowling alley, a waitress absentmindedly sets a tray of beer bottles down next to Sondra and her friends. Sondra quickly tries to dispose of the bottles so no one will think she was drinking—only to be hit with a spotlight, her arms full of empties. One guy the girls meet appears to be a bit inebriated and shows up with an unlit cigarette dangling from his bottom lip. He reports that his alcoholic girlfriend is out drinking with Bridget’s baby in tow. Bones says he can’t go long without needing a smoke (but that he knows smoking around kids is crazy).
A bit of toilet humor shows up in the form of a kid getting his head stuck in a potty seat and a bantered mention of the word poop.
The “night-out gone bad” story concept isn’t a particularly new one. The average moviegoer will likely remember plenty of Hollywood takes on that construct that have been filmed throughout the years. (Steve Carell and Tina Fey’s raucous Date Night is one recent version that tumbles to mind.) But a Christian comedy devoted to the subject!? Now that’s a different sort of unraveling entirely. The result? A pratfall-filled night of calamity that’s a refreshingly clean take on the cinematic chestnut.
From its parade of pitch-perfect performers (Patricia Heaton, Sean Astin and Trace Adkins among them) to its goofy car chases to its geyser of goo-free giggles, this version, well, sparkles. It laughs with I Love Lucy-like charm at the sometimes stressful insanity of childrearing and married-with-kids family life (thanks in large part to lead redhead Sarah Drew). But it also takes the time to gently recognize how God’s hand in an average mom and dad’s world can make all that craziness oh-so-much easier to deal with. Certainly much more meaningful and rewarding.
In fact, this pic works so well that I’ve got a feeling Moms’ Night Out will make many a real-world date night or girls’ getaway into a chuckle-worthy time … while keeping sweet thoughts of the kids right there at the heart of things.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.