Friday, May 23, 2014

Moms' Night Out

by C.J. Chase
I’d originally planned to write about the upcoming National Memorial Day Concert that will be broadcast on Monday throughout the U.S. This will be the 25th such annual concert, and at the risk of letting my age be known, yours truly was at the very first one. I don’t know where we learned about it—probably the radio—but I’m sure the main attraction to young, poor newlyweds living in one of the East Coast’s most expensive cities was the “free” price tag. In fact, we attended most of the first dozen or so, except in those years when sick kids kept us from venturing out in the Memorial Day rain. (For some reason, it rains a lot on Memorial Day in DC. One year while we were waiting for concert to begin, the tech guys played an entire montage of previous years’ concert footage where famous performers sang and danced in the pouring rain. I sat there and said, “Oh, yeah, I remember that year. And that one. And that one…”)

But then a Moms Night Out with a friend turned into a night at Moms’ Night Out (the movie), and I thought a Friday movie review might be in order. I guess that makes this post a review and a preview.

If you aren’t a news junkie like (ahem) some here, you may not know about the controversy surrounding this movie. Moms’ Night Out is part of the “Christian film” genre. Like Christian fiction (such as that written by the lovely ladies of Inkwell), Christian films have come a long way from those of my childhood. Of course, general market movies have come a long way from the gentle G offerings of my childhood—and not necessarily for the better. (Even most cartoons are now rated PG. What’s up with that?) As the culture has coarsened, talented Christian artists have had to work harder to find roles that don’t conflict with their beliefs. Modern Christian films have been the beneficiaries, drawing in some of Hollywood’s top talent. These movies often star actors best known for secular roles and may even reach blockbuster success in the general market (see The Chronicles of Narnia productions for Exhibit A).

Mom’s Night Out features actors Patricia Heaton (Debra on Everybody Loves Raymond), Sarah Drew (Dr. April Kepner on Grey’s Anatomy), Sean Astin (the Lord of the Rings trilogy’s Samwise Gamgee) and country music legend Trace Atkins. It has a family-friendly PG rating. What could be so controversial about that?

The critics hated it and the viewers loved it. No, let me rephrase that. The critics really, really hated it, and the audiences have really, really loved it.

On the movie review site Rotten Tomatoes, the composite critic reviews give it a 17% favorable rating (with the unflattering front-page comment of “Cheap-looking, unfunny, and kind of sexist to boot, Moms' Night Out is a disappointment from start to finish.”), but the composite audience reviews give it a whopping 91% rating. I wouldn’t exactly describe myself as having low-brow tastes, but I know that a majority of movie critics tend to hold a worldview that doesn’t always square with mine. As a writer who has garnered a few one- and two-star reviews on the same books that others rate at four or five, I knew I had to see this movie to judge for myself.

Let’s start with the trailer, shall we?

So what is my opinion? I must be cheap, unfunny and sexist because I laughed through the entire production. Hey, how could I not love a movie that opens with the line “I’m a mommy blogger”? Yikes! Is that my life or what? And then there was this memorable aside, spoken by the main character during a book club meeting, “Reading books is something I aspire to, but I have three kids, so…I don’t read books.”

Moms’ Night Out employs exaggerated, over-the-top humor, but it’s never mean or bitter. While most of us will never have a night gone so wrong we end up in jail with a tasered preacher’s wife (and if you do, we want to hear all about it), I think all parents have moments when they feel totally overwhelmed by life. Parents at all stages will appreciate the stresses that come with an inconvenient positive pregnancy test, a toddler artist practicing on the walls, or a rebellious teenager. And all women can identify with the main characters’ determination to put on a show of outward perfection.

My verdict is that if you have children or have ever thought about having children, ignore the critics and go. Hire a sitter or leave the kids with dad, find some friends, and release some endorphins. Be certain to stay all the way to the very, very end because the line right above the copyright date is hilarious. In this instance, I have to agree with the majority. And bah humbug to the critics.

Oh, and if you are a U.S. reader, watch the National Memorial Day Concert on your PBS station Monday night. It’s almost as good as being there. (But not quite.) And if you ever get to DC over the Memorial Day weekend, make time in your schedule to attend. Just be certain to take your umbrella.

After leaving the corporate world to stay home with her children, C.J. Chase quickly learned she did not possess the housekeeping gene. She decided writing might provide the perfect excuse for letting the dust bunnies accumulate under the furniture. Her procrastination, er, hard work paid off in 2010 when she won the Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Manuscript and sold the novel to Love Inspired Historicals. Her current release, The Reluctant Earl, is now available  in online bookstores. You can visit C.J.'s cyber-home (where the floors are always clean) at


  1. Funny, C.J.! We have a general rule in our house: movies that have won fancy film awards (esp. foreign ones) are rarely enjoyed here. I guess that makes us "low-brow," too. :)

  2. Niki, I argued with my high school English teacher about James Joyce. She was telling us about Ulysses and how it was so complex the average person couldn't understand it. And I said something to the effect of, "Isn't the purpose of writing to communicate? What good is writing if people can't understand your point?" It's another way of "preaching to the choir" (to use a phrase for when Christians become insular).

    I'm so low-brow, I don't mind appealing to the masses. In fact, I'd like masses and masses to buy my books and read my blogs.

  3. I don't listen to critics either. The exception is Ted Baehr's MovieGuide. I don't see a film now unless checking it out on MovieGuide first because Ted gives a Christian and scripturally-based view on every movie including secular ones. He considers the entertainment factor and prepares you as to content, language, etc. So you not only know if there are vulgar words, but how many, etc. Very helpful when trying to decide if it's kid-worthy.

    As for your review, CJ. Thank you.

    This reminds me of the AFV Father's Day show last year where they showed the difference between fathers and mothers. Let's just say that when things happen to their kids, the first response is for mothers to gasp and for fathers to laugh. And if you want proof, I'll bring my hubby and kids over.

    So my suspicion is that most movie critics are men and ergo didn't like the movie because of it.

  4. Okay, first about this movie. I was disheartened (but not at all surprised) that "the critics" downed a movie that supports a Christian worldview that values motherhood and traditional family. They don't get us. They never will. If it had been two lesbians raising a baby or something like that, no doubt it would have been lauded as "an important film." Makes me sad to see how far we've fallen.

    One reviewer said, "Why doesn't she hire a nanny and get a job?" Maybe because she WANTS to raise her own kids and not leave it to someone else? Feminists are supposedly about letting women choose what they want, but that evidently only counts if they fall in lock step with the party line.

    The trailer made me laugh. I think I'd enjoy this movie, and I'm not at all a mommy-movie person.

    Now, regarding this:

    She was telling us about Ulysses and how it was so complex the average person couldn't understand it. And I said something to the effect of, "Isn't the purpose of writing to communicate? What good is writing if people can't understand your point?"

    CJ, you are SO right. I can read. I can read words and take meaning from them. Ulysses is just a mess, and I think Joyce made it deliberately that way. It's like The Emperor's New Clothes. Everybody knows it's garbage, but none of them will admit it. Did your teacher claim to get meaning out of it? It's a beating to read, and as you say, that defeats the purpose.


  5. I agree with everyone. I seldom agree with critics. I'm looking forward to seeing this movie. Thanks, CJ.


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