Jon and Andrew Erwin of October Baby fame have taken their hand to slapstick comedy. With the help of writer Andrea Gyertson Nasfell, and a worthy cast which includes Patricia Heaton (also an executive producer), Sarah Drew, Sean Astin, and Trace Adkins, the Erwin Brothers shepherded Mom's Night Out to the big screen.
The movie centers on Allyson (Sarah Drew) who despite love for her family and children, is neurotic, overly critical of herself, and generally stressed out. Her husband Sean (Sean Astin) encourages her to take a night off and spend it with friends. So, Allyson plans a peaceful, grown-up evening of dinner and conversation and leaves her husband (along with a few friends) to watch the kids for three hours. What could go wrong? Mom's Night Out chronicles just what does in a no-holds-barred, hilarious fashion.
This true-to-life family comedy not only celebrates the difficulties of being the "perfect" mother, and the beautiful mess that is parenting, but projects this all through a faith-based lens.
The film premiered nationwide on 1,000 screens this past Mother's Day weekend. A smart marketing coup which no doubt contributed to it making the Top 10 in weekend box office.
From the buzz on my own Facebook page from friends who have seen it, and the film's own Facebook page, it is fast becoming an audience favorite. One pastor friend wrote, "Surprising—a Refreshing Change of Pace...a Christian movie without an “Apocalyptic” theme...Very Nice! Not nearly thematically heavy as God's Not Dead and Heaven is For Real. I occasionally glanced over and caught my wife laughing smiling. We both needed a good laugh and it was well worth it!"
However, many of the reviews have missed the point—some deliberately so. The reviewers' biases against Christianity and stay-at-home moms bleeds through their vitriol.
From Neil Genzlinger of the New York Times:
"Little of it is funny or genuine, and the benefits and beauty of real faith are nowhere in evidence." So according to Neil, real life and real faith does not involve struggle or discontent, only benefits and beauty. Yeah, right.
And Elizabeth Weitzman of the New York Daily News: “'Moms’ Night Out' is really all about moms staying home, where, according to this movie, they apparently belong." As opposed to hiring nannies and going to work? The snark factor ranks high on Elizabeth's meter.
As someone who is not a mom, but knows plenty of stay-at-home and homeschooling moms, this movie is spot on, honest, real, and touching. How many of us have achieved our dreams and then realized the reality is sometimes more than we can handle? How many of us with a relationship with Jesus don't have it all together, but assume everyone else around us does? How many are overwhelmed and feel like they are not making a difference? Heck, I feel this way often, and I am not daily shaping young lives.
Through smashingly over-the-top situations, and sometimes painfully relatable characters (I have known far too many "Glendas" in my Christian life), Andrea Nasfell and Jon Erwin subtlely point us toward two things: 1) God's love is all encompassing, no matter where we are; 2) Being who he created us to be is much more his goal than some "Christian" ideal—whatever that is.
The film grossed over $4 million for the weekend; not bad for a small-budget, limited release movie.
With the word-of-mouth, hopefully the movie will continue to gain legs. Unlike film critics, real audiences are hungry for a good, old-fashioned laugh without the sex, drugs, or the perpetually bad parodies of people who believe or who choose to hold traditional values. One movie-goer commented on the film's Facebook page:
"What a great movie. It should be a requirement for every mom to see. I'm not a mother, but I can appreciate what the movie was trying to say. Our lives [sic] crazy busy and whether your a stay at home mom or one that works, a mother's job is very important. Rotten Tomato and Roger Ebert have lost touch with the real world. I have found that both these groups usually gets it wrong. I hope to see more family movies. I think Hollywood is starting to get it. Families want to be able to go out to a movie without being offended. Keep up the great work. And thank you on behalf of all the mother's of the world."
The movie is not just for moms, and is an excellent outlet for laughter, discussion, and reflection. Go see Mom's Night Out—you'll be glad you did!