Although the film, of course, lands on the conclusion that there’s more to moms—and to inter-mom friendships—than talking about potty training and turning in early, Fun Mom Dinner, the latest in a series of female-oriented R-rated ensemble comedies, doesn’t sell that idea very well. Posters for the film promise a wild, drug-and-alcohol-fueled ride à la the recent Rough Night, but while there is plenty of drinking and a fair amount of drugs (just pot though, let’s not go crazy), the overall effect is more akin to passing out on the couch at 9 p.m. than partying until dawn.
At first, Fun Mom Dinner seems to promise (or threaten, as the case may be) a different sort of movie, front-loading some of its crudest sexual humor as we introduce our four fun moms. There’s Kate (Toni Collette), the anti-social pothead; Jamie (Molly Shannon), the Instagram-obsessed divorcée; Melanie (Bridget Everett), the military-minded preschool volunteer; and Emily (Katie Aselton), the ex-lawyer and Kate’s childhood friend whose baby poops on her face. Each is mother to an interchangeable iPad-obsessed brood of varying sizes, and each longs to be known as more than just somebody’s mom, lending a bitter irony to the shallowness of their characterizations.
One of Kate’s traits, as previously mentioned, is that she’s dead set against socializing with other moms, so Emily has to trick her into participating in the regular “fun mom dinner” Jamie organizes for the other moms at their preschool. Things start off okay, with the camera circling around the table Quentin Tarantino-style as the moms each elaborate on who they used to be back before kids took over their lives. Then Melanie takes offense to Kate’s attitude and calls her “a massive cunt” (how edgy), an insult that’s smoothed over when Melanie tries out Kate’s vaporizer in the parking lot. Next thing you know, they’re all toking up in the bathroom, until a tripped fire alarm sends them running out the back door, on to buy some more weed and to hang out together at a nearby bar, where Emily hits it off with tattooed bartender Luke (Adam Levine). And, without completely spoiling the last half of the film, not much else happens.
There’s something to be said for a comedy that doesn’t rely too heavily on outrageous scenarios to get laughs, but instead presents relatable characters talking like real people. This, however, isn’t exactly that. While the script does present a realistic take on the chaos of life with little ones as far as this writer can tell (full disclosure: I am nobody’s mother), it still conforms to the tired comedy mandate that at least a half-dozen contemporary pop-culture references must be inserted into the average feature-length script. (Instagram, Blue Apron, American Girl dolls, Antiques Roadshow, and HGTV all come up in conversation.) Worse, a few of these references are noticeably outdated: Vajazzling, the practice of applying crystals to a freshly shaved pubic area that serves as a running gag throughout the film, was quite the sensation when it was first introduced in 2010. All of this, plus a soundtrack of ’80s pop hits, a John Hughes-esque romantic subplot, and a “kids these days” attitude toward technology, combines to give the impression that the script sat on a shelf for a while before actually getting made.
With such uninspiring material, the uniformly talented cast—whose supporting players include such comedy heavyweights as Rob Huebel, Adam Scott, Paul Rudd, David Wain, John Early, and Paul Rust—all seem to have the volume turned down on their performances. Everett, who’s a lusty, vivacious force of nature in her cabaret act, is especially wasted; the scene where she starts lighting up the room performing karaoke, but stops less than halfway through the song, is very frustrating. There may be some emotional truth, or even meta-commentary, in the idea that, for parents, a simple night out on the town can be something special and even life-changing. But it’s also undeniably disappointing when a movie called Fun Mom Dinner isn’t, well, much fun.