Like its predecessors — “Valentine’s Day,” “New Year’s Eve” and the inexplicably adored “Love Actually” — “Mother’s Day” is low-risk, high-profit dreck.
From a film producer’s point of view, it’s a no-brainer. Take a half dozen interlacing plots on a central theme, populate them with big names (none of whom have to work too hard, since each is on screen for only a few minutes), pave the way with lightweight comedy and wrap it all up with a saccharine coda.
It’s a lazy moviegoer’s dream come true. There’s no commitment required because the enterprise is pure dramatic shorthand. No character or narrative arc is sustained long enough to be anything more than a blip, and the film delivers a sentimental rush without the viewer having to invest anything.
In other words, emotional porn.
The latest from director Garry Marshall and his team of writers (Tom Hines, Lily Hollander, Anya Kochoff, Matthew Walker) follows a group of Atlanta residents as they look forward to — what else? — Mother’s Day.
Divorcee Sandy (Jennifer Aniston) is all abother because her ex-husband (Timothy Olyphant) has wed a trophy gal half his age … and now this new stepmom is a favorite of Sandy’s two young boys.
Sisters Jesse (Kate Hudson) and Gabi (Sarah Chalke) live next door to each other and are happily estranged from their domineering and hopelessly prejudiced mother. Jesse has married an East Indian doctor (Aasif Mandvi), while Gabi is in a same-sex relationship.
Wouldn’t you know it? Their covers are blown when unsuspecting Mom (the great Margo Martindale) and Dad (Robert Pine) come swooping down in their RV to share Mother’s Day with the girls.
Widower Bradley (KC’s Jason Sudeikis) is mourning the death of his soldier wife (an uncredited Jennifer Garner, seen only in a video recorded from a Middle Eastern war zone) and trying his best to raise his two daughters, the oldest of whom is in the throes of first-time puppy love.
Kristin (“Tomorrowland’s” Britt Robertson) is a new mother, and is determined to locate her own birth mother, who gave her up for adoption.
Meanwhile the charming/brittle Miranda (Julia Roberts) lords over a home shopping empire with the help of her sweetly cynical assistant (Hector Elizondo).
There’s a certain charm in watching all these handsome people go through the motions.
But the resulting film is impossibly shallow. Mothers deserve better.
Read more from freelance writer Robert W. Butler at ButlersCinemaScene.com.
Rated PG-13. Time: 1:58.