A movie can be rated PG and still not be a children’s movie.
Hey, let’s talk about cuss words for a minute!
Did you know that, depending on whose count you go by, Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street has somewhere between 506 and 569 uses of the f-word during its 180 minute running time?
Yep, someone counted. And with that many expletives, wherever the final tally ultimately falls between those two numbers, it represents a new record for f-bombs used in a non-documentary film. Artistically, I suppose it’s possible to defend such a preponderance of profanity on the grounds that it fits in with the overarching theme of unbridled excess Scorsese’s movie purports to explore. On the other hand, it could just be more proof of what Cole Porter once noted, “Good authors, too, who once knew better words, now only use four-letter words writing prose. Anything goes!”
But merited or not, there’s no denying that a sizable number of moviegoers are turned off by such a surplus of swear words, not to mention the overabundance of sexualized nudity, gratuitous bloody violence, and generally negative spiritual overtones which most often accompany them. In the past, these audiences were able to find refuge in PG rated fare, motion pictures where such subject matter was limited or missing altogether.
Unfortunately, there’s a little problem with that strategy these days; PG rated movies seem to be a dying breed. Of the hundreds of films given a theatrical release in 2013, Box Office Mojo lists a grand total of 55 which were rated PG, most of which were geared towards children. To count those PG rated movies which were made about and for adults, you could probably get away with using your fingers.
Part of the reason for that, I would venture to guess, is the success of original programming on cable television channels such as Disney, Hallmark, and ABC Family. I mean, why bother with the hassle and expense of a theatrical release when you can just lower the budgets a little and create self-owned TV-PG rated movies to fill up your station’s schedule? It makes good financial sense. However, the downside to this approach is obvious. It means the cinema has basically been all but abandoned to children, teenagers, and the R rated crowd. So when I looked to see what was coming out this weekend, I wasn’t too shocked to see the big new releases were Neighbors, the latest R-rated comedy featuring Seth Rogen (he of the increasingly tired “stoned fat guy” schtick), and Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return, the latest animated kid’s bait. But surprisingly, I noticed sandwiched in between those two offerings, Mom’s Night Out, a PG-rated film aimed squarely at folks old enough to have kids and own a house.
Mom’s Night Outtells the story of Allyson (Grey’s Anatomy’s Sarah Drew), an aspiring “mommy blogger” who can’t seem to find the energy or inspiration to write due to the demands of her harried household. With her husband Sean (LOTR’s Sean Astin) always travelling, Allyson is often left alone to care for their adorably destructive children. By the time one of her brood manages to get his head stuck in a toilet seat at the church on Mother’s Day, Allyson is feeling completely overwhelmed and miserable. So when Sean returns home to find Allyson hidden away in their closet, scarfing down candy and obsessively watching Pinterest videos of a mother eagle feeding its young, they both agree the time is long past due for Allyson to have a night out with the girls.
A few days later, joined by her best pal Izzy (Pure Flix staple Logan White), a young mother whose husband suffers from a crippling fear of small children, and Sondra (Patricia Heaton of
Everybody Loves Raymond and The Middle fame), an overstressed pastor’s wife who is having trouble with her own teenaged daughter, Allyson sets out with Groupons in hand determined to have an evening of much needed relaxation.
However, things immediately start to go wrong when the trio discover the posh restaurant they hoped to dine at misunderstood what day Allyson wanted a reservation. Frustrated, yet resolute, Allyson collects up everyone’s constantly ringing cellphones, locks them in the minivan, and drags her friends to the nearby bowling alley in search of some food and fun.
And thus starts an ever-spiraling series of events that provide the ladies a night out unlike any they could have ever expected. What starts out as a simple evening of girl-chat at a local eatery ends up involving biker gangs, a bizarre English cabbie, trips to the hospital, a very tattooed Trace Adkins, car chases, and jail cells. Mom’s Night Out basically has the same kind of setup as The Hangover movies, except, you know, without all the f-words, substance abuse, and casual sex.
And naturally, this has offended somebody.
Now, with movie criticism being in part a subjective exercise, I rarely discuss other individual reviews during the course of my own. After all, everybody’s entitled to their own opinion, right? But the early review of Mom’s Night Out over at The Village Voice is so full of crazy that I just can’t help myself.
First off, their piece finds the lack of sex and drugs dubious, as if the idea that three married women from the local First Baptist Church can somehow leave their homes without acting like immature drunken sorority girls is an alien concept. And then, of course, their reviewer takes offense that the single mother who eventually joins up with the trio (Suburgatory’s Abbie Cobb) actually desires to reconcile with her estranged husband.
Oh, the sexism! How could any woman actually want her child’s father in her life? The review tries to disguise its knee-jerk feminism by pointing out that the husbands are portrayed as inept bumblers with their own kids, but this rings false since the whole premise of the movie hinges on the fact that the children are difficult for the mothers as well.
But it’s near the end that The Voice’s review finally gets to what really bothers it about this movie. You see, in Mom’s Night Out, people actually (cover your ears if you’re easily offended) talk about God. Not a lot, mind you. Even though Pure Flix is involved in the production, this isn’t a “soul winner” like the recent God’s Not Dead. Mom’s Night Out never grinds to a halt so some character can inform the audience that they’re going to Hell if they don’t accept Jesus into their hearts. The film doesn’t resolve its conflicts by having someone say a prayer and magically have their problems go away. It just has the occasional scene tucked in between all the goofy chaos where the characters mention their faith and wonder if they’re handling things the way Go
d would want them to. I don’t know, maybe that kind of spiritual small talk doesn’t happen a lot in The Village, but down here in my neck of the woods it’s a pretty common thing, especially among people who regularly attend church like the characters in Mom’s Night Out. And yet, as innocuous as the faith content is in the movie, the reviewer from The Village Voice couldn’t have been more offended if Christians had actually rushed into the theater and flung holy water on her. It’s silly and sad at the same time.
Mom’s Night Out is a good old fashioned PG-rated outing for adults who prefer their movies that way. It’s got real actors, a few good laughs, and a simple, yet relatable problem at its core. And yes, it has the temerity to recognize that a good chunk of the population still goes to church on Sunday. If that’s not your cup of tea, don’t worry, you can still catch Seth Rogan this weekend lazily dropping f-bombs on the next screen over. But if you’d prefer to go out to eat for Mother’s Day and then not have to head right back home to find something easy on the ears, then Mom’s Night Out might just be the movie for you.
In a world he didn’t create, in a time he didn’t choose, one man looks for signs of God in the world by… watching movies. When he’s not reviewing new releases for Aleteia, David Ives spends his time exploring the intersection of low-budget/cult cinema and Catholicism at The B-Movie Catechism.