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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 16 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 20
Moderately charming Night Out a faith-based surprise
Arts & Entertainment
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Moderately charming Night Out a faith-based surprise

by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

MOMS' NIGHT OUT Now playing

Allyson (Sarah Drew) needs a night to herself. While her marriage with successful architect Sean (Sean Astin) is a good one, the pressures of motherhood have been stressing her out more than normal of late. She's longing for a night of adult conversation, meals not prepared in a microwave, feminine dresses and sparkly high heels, and if she doesn't get one soon, the young mother might just end up having a nervous breakdown.

Allyson gets her wish. Sean will watch the kids for the night while she spends an evening on the town with her best friends from church, fellow moms Sondra (Patricia Heaton) and Izzy (Andrea Logan White). But things fall off the rails right from the start - dinner reservations made incorrectly and worry about whether or not their husbands are up to the task of taking care of the children weighing on all of them. Yet it isn't until the trio run into Allyson's sister-in-law, Bridget (Abbie Cobb), herself a single mom, that things truly fall to pieces - the discovery that her baby's father has carelessly left the kid in untrustworthy hands sending all of them on a mad quest to remedy the situation.

Moms' Night Out is the latest in a long string of faith-based cinematic productions to hit the local multiplex. Just this year we've seen the more blatantly Christian fundamentalist Son of God, God's Not Dead and Heaven is for Real make major box office dollars. Heck, even Noah, not without controversy over whether or not it was 'Biblically accurate' (whatever the heck that's supposed to mean), has managed to make major hay as far as ticket sales go, the Darren Aronofsky directed effort making over $330-million worldwide.

That movie aside, as financially successful as the rest of that list might be, that doesn't make any of the other features particularly good. Each of them beats the viewer over the head with their didactic points of view, not allowing for anything close to a dissenting opinion, looking at things like debate and discussion as facets to be avoided, as if they were the plague. They are annoyingly judgmental, having preciously little to do with 'Faith' and instead remain perfectly content to preach to the converted leaving everyone else to wonder what the fuss is about.

Funny thing, while Moms' Night Out doesn't follow a different game plan or come up with a new way to get its points across, it still, somehow, someway, manages to produce smiles, earn a couple of gentle tears and even generate a fair bit of laughter. Because it refuses to take things deathly seriously, because it allows for flaws, foibles, missteps and mistakes to be a part of the always ephemeral (and almost certainly ubiquitous) 'God's Plan,' gosh darn it all if the movie doesn't have its own gentle, winsomely distracting charms. While not a film I'm going to be talking about much in the future (let alone remembering in any sort of great detail) I can't say I didn't have a moderately decent enough time watching it, a fact I'm admittedly more than a little bit shocked to be admitting.

Make no mistake, this thing is really nothing more than an extended sitcom (not a surprise considering former 'Everybody Loves Raymond' star Heaton is listed as a producer), brothers Jon and Andrew Erwin (October Baby) directing with a perfunctory exactitude that's hardly subtle. As for the script written by Jon Erwin and Andrea Gyertson Nasfell (Escape) it is a model of 'Modern Family' meets 'Full House' meets 'Growing Pains' simplicity, any connection to real life and actual parental problems more accidental than they are thoughtfully composed or intelligently planned.

But, unlike most films cut from a somewhat similar fundamentalist cloth, there is little that's preachy or overbearing about this comedy, the filmmakers and the cast treating these travails as casually and as naturally as they can most of the time. Allyson's trials and tribulations are at least cut from a recognizable cloth, and while many of the parental interactions feel more of the 'Leave It To Beaver' generation than they do the Facebook and Instagram one, for some gosh darn reason that doesn't make events less affecting. More, when the movie does decide to preach, it does so in a rather surprising, comparatively charming ways, a quiet moment between a frazzled mother and a tough-as-nails biker (nicely underplayed by country music superstar Trace Adkins) containing droplets of truth deftly intermixed inside the sermonizing.

Say what you will about the picture's point-of-view and hard-line opinions, neither of which I have the heart or desire to defend, bash or anything in-between, it goes without saying I'd have a much higher tolerance for this sort of faith-based stuff, if it was presented in anything close to the same vein as this. I don't agree with much of the subtext or thinly veiled politics not-so-cleverly hiding within the narrative's layers (no shock there), but that doesn't make it a total waste of time, either. Moms' Night Out is a family-friendly sitcom masquerading as a feature film with more laughs than expected and enough heart to make the majority of the odious aspects borderline tolerable. For what it is, if taken with a grain of salt, it's not too bad, and while not the greatest of recommendations, considering the alternative, it's going to have to do.

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