PRETEND YOU CAME FROM a far, far away land or even distant planet and observe the actions some people go through for their holiday celebrations. Morning, noon or night you could see drivers arguing over parking spaces. The landscape void of all vegetation has building blocks of cement and steel doing everything in their power to entice citizens to walk through their doors and buy the merchandise inside. Speaking of merchandise, there are colorful displays everywhere inside these buildings that try to catch your eye. Music played only during the autumn/winter months continuously enters your ears; more than likely repeating itself at some point. Rolls of paper have to be replaced in cash registers throughout the store because of all the gift receipts being printed out. And the most arduous times during this period take place when there is something called a “sale.” During this time you might see people bumping into other people as they seek and consume marked down items. RETURNING TO THEIR HOMES the frenzy does not stop as the end of the year nears. Lists are made for all of the foods one wants to have in their possession. Some people will stress over the preparation of the meals while others will just have others bring in the food. People risk life and limb to hang decorations all over the outside of their houses and across their land. Frustration can spike when after strings of lights are hung to outline the edges of one’s house and one of the bulbs does not light up when the switch is turned on. Inside the decorations can have a particular theme or be a conglomeration of ideas brought together to make the house look festive. One interesting thing of note revolves around the concept of gift giving. It may appear that the younger the person is the more gifts they want to get. This concept of gift giving comes with its own unique form of stress. Will the recipient like the gift, will it fit, will it be too hard to put together; these are some of the thoughts that many individuals get when their minds are focused on gifts. If that was not stressful enough, what could be worse than answering the door to an unexpected guest? If you want to find out then watch what happens in this comedy adventure. FEELING THE STRESS OF the holiday’s fast approach friends Amy, Kiki and Carla; played by Mila Kunis (Oz the Great and Powerful, Friends with Benefits), Kristen Bell (The Lifeguard, Hit and Run) and Kathryn Hahn (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, We’re the Millers); were not prepared for the ultimate stress—their mothers’ surprise visit. This sequel represents the bad aspects of making a sequel. Where I liked the first movie, I was bored through most of this film. On top of it I found a mean spiritedness to the story. The introduction of each one’s mother has been done before and I found some of the scenes ludicrous. There was no new humor mined with this mother/daughter story line. The cast was fine though I thought Christine Baranski (Into the Woods, The Good Wife-TV) as Ruth and Susan Sarandon (The Lovely Bones, The Meddler) as Isis were typical choices; one was stuck up and the other was the laid back hippie. Though there were a couple of chuckles here and there, I found this film as stale as year old fruitcake.
1 ½ stars
For endless hours of entertainment there is nothing like watching a newborn baby. Their facial expressions, the laugh they emit when you play “Peek-a-Boo” with them, the soft pudgy limbs; babies can ease pretty much any person’s mind of stress. In my yoga classes I tell new members that we were born with incredible flexibility. All they need to do to be reminded of it is to watch a baby move. As we grow and take on life’s challenges some of our flexibility may diminish; hopefully in class we can get re-introduced to that flexibility once again. Babies are not the only source of joyfulness or inspiration; there are many animals that at birth provide unlimited fun moments. The obvious ones would be puppies and kittens. Who doesn’t stop to look at a puppy or kitten playing? I believe I have mentioned I have a neighbor who fosters kittens and every day I get a show of them scampering and playing around their room. It was especially amusing to me the day I saw one kitten standing up and leaning on the closed door as another kitten was standing on them, as if they were forming a kitten pyramid up to the door handle. Just seeing the amount of cat and dog videos on my social media sites, I know I am not the only one who loves watching animals. This same neighbor has a food blog and when I asked her how she got so many followers to her site, she said all she had to do was post pictures of cats. Every time she posted a picture of one of the cats and kittens she was fostering, she would get new followers. Maybe that is why this comedy fantasy started out by showing cat videos. SUCCESSFUL businessman Tom Brand, played by Kevin Spacey (Elvis & Nixon, House of Cards-TV), was on the verge of his company’s latest achievement coming to fruition; the completion of North America’s tallest building. Pre-occupied with so much going on, Tom gave little thought to his daughter’s birthday request when he chose Mr. Fuzzypants from Felix Perkins, played by Christopher Walken (The Family Fang, Stand Up Guys), the odd proprietor of the pet store. This family film’s selling point was the cat. On a visual level, it was enjoyable watching the cat or the CGI cat doing the physical activities required for this story. However, the script not only did not help the cat; it did no favors for fellow cast members Jennifer Garner (Danny Collins, Dallas Buyers Club) as Lara Brand and Cheryl Hines (The Ugly Truth, Curb Your Enthusiasm-TV) as Madison Camden. The characters were more like cartoon ones than actual humans. As for Jennifer and her role, I really think she needs to do something different. The past few films she has been in she essentially is doing the same thing repeatedly. The story was predictable and one dimensional; there was little I found funny and for the most part I felt I was watching video clips taken from other movies. Actually more like videos that went viral. Maybe the film studio should have instead stayed with the cat videos for 90 minutes.
1 ½ stars
There is a saying, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” that is used when one is referring to similar characteristics or personality traits between generations of family members. Examples of this could be your father was thrifty and you became thrifty. Another example would be you and your mother both being charitable individuals. I knew someone whose mother was over dramatic, just like one of those silent screen movie stars who used exaggerated gestures to convey their feelings. The more she complained about her mother the more I would have to quietly chuckle to myself because she was just like her mother; she just did not realize it. Everything she did had to be over the top, where it was either the hardest thing she had to do or it was the absolute best. There was no middle ground with her, only extremes. The ultimate example was at her wedding where her mother tried to outshine her by wearing a designer dress and a collection of jewelry that made one squint anytime you had to look at her. All I could wonder was whether my friend would continue this parental rivalry with her future children. In this comedic drama the Turner family came together for the holidays, bringing along their secrets and repressed feelings. Alicia Witt (Two Weeks Notice, 88 Minutes) played estranged daughter Nina, who had not seen her family in 15 years. Director and actor Peter Bogdanovich (Paper Moon, Queen of the Lot) played patriarch Poppy Turner, who had remarried and was living with his 2nd wife Deborah, played by Cheryl Hines (The Ugly Truth, Curb Your Enthusiasm-TV). Having seen a slew of movies that dealt with all kinds of family dynamics, I was curious to see how this story would be different. There was enough situations in place to create a minefield of emotional explosions, having Nina and her sister Lindsey, played by Sonya Walger (All the King’s Men, Lost-TV), being the children of the 1st wife and the half brother Jacob, played by Ashton Holmes (A History of Violence, Wind Chill), being the son of the 2nd wife. However, there was nothing in this film that had not been examined before. I thought the acting was awful and the script bland and generic; causing me to be bored most of the time. The exception was a couple of scenes that surprised me. If the characters in this movie mean something to the people who thought them up, then all I can say is the writers need to find a different family.
1 2/3 stars