Mom’s Night Out (Movie Review, PG)

There are things I review on my blog that I think everyone will love and then there are things I post here that I think some people will love…this one is for the some people, not everybody. (It has a 5.4/10 on IMDb but only 18% on Rotten Tomatoes.)

Mom's Night Our

I love slapstick comedy (think Home Alone, Baby’s Day Out, etc.) but there is very little of it being produced these days (if you are aware of some good ones I should be watching – let me know!). Mom’s Night Out falls into this category. I laughed so hard I almost cried. Sheila, my mom, and two of my sisters (Faith and Mary) were all watching it with me, I don’t think any of them enjoyed it quite as much as I did…though they may have enjoyed it more because of my near-tears laughing antics.

Mom’s Night Out is a Christian movie in the sense that it was made by Christians, but it is not a Christian movie in the sense of proselytizing. This film is funny and heart-warming and its take-away is a bit over-the-top, but hey, don’t most comedies have one of these at the end anyways?

Okay, now on to some geeky stuff I like to share and probably nobody reads… 🙂

Actors

I always like to see who they were able to line up for a movie and what they were in before…this film has some fairly well-known talent including Sarah Drew, Sean Astin, Patricia Heaton, and David Hunt.

There are also several significant actors from the Christian film industry – which are likely known by those who watch these films and not by the larger world. These include: Andrea Logan White, Alex Kendrick, Jason Burkey, and Kevin Downes.

Movie Review: Bernie (PG-13).

In the film Bernie, the lead character (whose name is also the title of the film), is a friendly funeral director who befriends a wealthy widow but eventually ends up resenting her as she becomes increasingly controlling of him. In the end, Bernie murders his wealthy friend, that pulls off a nine month sham pretending she is alive while spending her money.

Now a number of elements make this film somewhat unique. First is that it is based upon a true story. Secondly, and this is an odd combination, Jack Black plays the leading role. Third is the film being a black comedy, and fourth is probably Matthew McConaughey playing the District Attorney.

The film raises a number of ethical questions – both via the film itself and because of controversy surrounding the film. For example:

  • How long after a crime has occurred is it acceptable to make a film or write a book about the occurrence?
  • Is it appropriate to create a comedy which, to some extent, pokes fun at the victim?
  • Was Bernie really a nice guy or a superb actor and manipulator?
  • Do we accept that Bernie was in some senses receiving abuse, and if so, should this play any consideration in the ruling on his guilt or the extent of his punishment?

If you are looking for laughs – look elsewhere. I’m not a big fan of black comedy in the first place – I find it depressing and disturbing…but this film lacked all but the barest resemblances to a comedy. This is both a weakness (it plods along) and a strength (it takes a multi-faceted perspective to the crime, its perpetrator, and its victim and probes more deeply into the mind of Bernie than could have been accomplished in a straightforward comedy).

The film is rated PG-13 – most likely for the language which is sporadic throughout the film, mainly in retrospective interviews with individuals (played by actors) who knew Bernie and his victim, Marjorie Nugent.

Here are two interesting articles I found on the true crime:

If you do watch the film I’m interested to know what you think of it, and of the ethical dilemmas it raises.

Movie Review: Homeless for the Holidays.

Homeless For The Holidays
Image by Don Hankins via Flickr

For a number of years I’ve been a member of the Ground Force Network, an organization that utilizes grassroots endeavors to market various products and services – mainly around a faith-based subject matter. While sometimes the products I receive are less-than-optimal quality I’ve received several I’ve been quite impressed with – such as Kyle Strobel’s Metamorpha.

Ground Force Network rebranded as Team Buzz Plant and recently sent me a free preview DVD called Homeless for the Holidays. In a note they inserted into the package Team Buzz Plant wrote, “As you watch this movie, please keep in mind that this film is based on a true story. The story reflects what the film makers experienced in their own lives. This film was made on a much lower budget than originally planned and many of the actors involved even worked for free in order to make the film possible.” Well, that didn’t inspire me with much confidence. An excuse for the film before I even begin watching it? Yikes. Plus the timeline was rather tight – I was to publish a review by the 22nd – and I don’t get compensated for these reviews – other than the free DVD – so I wasn’t in a hurry….

That said, I was going home to New York for Thanksgiving and there would be plenty of time for a holiday, family-friendly movie during this visit – I figured I’d bring it, give it a try, and write a review when I returned home…and thus I am.

Put the movie in and it starts right up – its a pre-release version – so no previews or other fun stuff…just hop right into the film. Some decent CGI in a humorous style alongside with a professional narrator begin our story off right – things are looking hopeful…then the live action begins. One of my sisters groans. I’m willing to give it a chance, so is my brother Paul. We all sit quietly watching the movie. There are occasional laughs, groans, and comments.

The acting feels like something out of a TV serial comedy – and I don’t mean that in (necessarily) a bad way. Its over-exaggerated. I can’t quite figure out whether this is because the tone of the movie has been purposely set as such or whether its simply a poor production – I gave the benefit of the doubt and went with over-exaggerated.

The film’s storyline is fairly straightforward. Rich man gets humbled, learns the value of spending time with family, the value of faith in God, and the joy in helping others. There really are no surprises – though quirky characters throughout keep the laughs coming and the family moments overall are endearing.

Okay, it isn’t bad. I’m ready to give it a thumbs up for a quirky, family-friendly, positive message holiday movie – but then everything changes. I won’t ruin the ending for you – but lets just say I was crying – my brother was crying, my dad was crying. I can’t tell you about anyone else – but for us the story struck home. I kept fighting back the tears not wanting to sob at the end of a family-friendly comedy-with-a-message, but still the tears ran down my face.

Martha (one of my sister’s) replies, “Dave, you are a mush.” She still wasn’t a fan of the film. My mom wasn’t overly enthusiastic either (though she missed the ending – she has a bad habit of leaving in the middle of movies), but my younger siblings (Faith and Mary) seemed to enjoy it readily enough, though my two cousins (2 and 3) didn’t find it engaging enough to hold their attention.

I’m having a hard time putting a finger on how to recommend this movie. I can be a pretty devastating film critic. Rev. Bill Smith likes to call me a ‘film critic’ for my oftentimes harsh criticism of various faith and family friendly films which many enjoy thoroughly. One part of me wants to be critical, but in this instance the story, the passion, and the powerful ending have overwhelmed me – and I’m giving this film a thumbs up. It appears I’m not alone in this judgment, while there aren’t a ton of votes in over at the IMDb, the consensus thus far is 8.7/10 – not a bad score at all!

If you have kids – I think they will enjoy it…and the message is powerful and persuasive, the content is clean and enjoyable.