It may feel like a kinder, gentler, sweeter version of “Adventures in Babysitting” or “The Hangover,” but this charming story manages to avoid getting syrupy, even when everyone settles down in the midst of chaos for a little talk about God’s love. It helps that the conversation is with a scary-looking tattooed biker type played by country star Trace Adkins. It is a very funny movie with an exceptionally likeable cast and a warm-hearted, surprisingly touching tribute to moms and their families, as endearing as a Mother’s Day Card made from a paper plate covered with smeared finger paint and glittery macaroni.
Three moms are just hoping for a night away from cranky toddlers, crankier teenagers, and the perpetual chaos of parenthood, only to stumble into an even greater chaos that (spoiler alert) teaches everyone some important lessons about what really matters. Allyson (adorable Sarah Drew of “Grey’s Anatomy”), is a “clean freak” fighting a losing battle against the most powerful mess generators ever known, young children. She thinks it would feel comforting to be locked away in a bare white room in a straight jacket. The result: Allyson feels like “the Bruce Banner of stay-at-home moms,” literally tackling a child about to put his finger in his mouth because she is worried about salmonella. Danger seems to lurk around every corner. Panic never subsides.
Allyson has a devoted, sympathetic husband (Sean Astin as Sean), but that only makes her feel that she is failing him, too. Plus the readers of her mommy blog have dropped from four to three. Allyson looks up to Sondra (a nicely wry but heartfelt Patricia Heaton), her preacher’s wife, and thinks of her as “my Oprah, my Dr. Phil, my Gandalf.” And her closest friend is Izzy (Andrea Logan White). She has not quite figured out a way to tell her husband, who is very insecure about taking care of their twins, that another baby is on the way.
All three moms are in desperate need of some grown-up time, in grown-up clothes, eating food they did not cook and won’t have to clean up after, with purses emptied out of sippy cups and disinfectant wipes. So, they make plans for an all-too-rare girls’ night out, get all dressed up, and head out for a very fancy restaurant.
Unfortunately, they never get past the snooty hostess (the always-great Anjelah Johnson-Reyes of “Bon Qui Qui”). Instead, they find themselves caught up in a vortex that includes a missing car and a missing baby (the child of Sean’s sister), with trips to the emergency room and the police station, a tattoo parlor and cosmic bowling. Adkins has a nice scene as a tattooed biker with some surprisingly good advice. Every mom will relate to Allyson’s “pyramid of co-dependency” and the particular bleakness of feeling that you are living your dream and still cannot feel happy about it. And to the mantra of the airplane directions for use of oxygen: If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person. And to “finding the meaning, joy, and purpose in all the craziness.”
Parents should know that the movie includes some peril (no one badly hurt), minor injuries, a character who gets tased, and references to alcoholism.
Family discussion: Why was it hard for Allyson to feel like she was doing a good job? How do you find purpose in the craziness?
If you like this, try: “Adventures in Babysitting” and “Ramona and Beezus”