Movies that take place mostly over the course of 24 hours, as a protagonist's best-laid plans for a fun night out on the town go horribly awry, are a Hollywood staple. Neil Simon struck comic gold with the concept more than 40 years ago with Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis in
The Out-of-Towners. Martin Scorsese added a decided edge to the formula several years later in After Hours. And more recently, Tina Fey and Steve Carell worked the idea over to moderate success in Date Night. The Erwin brothers, directors of the inspirational October Baby, retool the concept with three moms and prove that a zany night out, in which everything that could possibly go wrong does, can still produce solid laughs. Allyson (Sarah Drew), a frazzled stay-at-home mom raising three energetic kids under the age of five, tries to write a mommy blog, but soon discovers that she doesn't have anything to say. Well, that's not quite true. She has plenty to say, but none of it is positive. Her kids are driving her crazy, and her husband Sean (Sean Astin) isn't much help because he's constantly traveling for his work. Allyson refers to herself as "the Bruce Banner of stay-at-home moms"; she doesn't want to turn into an angry hulk, but she just can't help herself. When Sean finally arrives home from a business trip on Mother's Day, she is at her wit's end. She confesses that her girlhood dream was to marry a good man and be a mom, but now she has that and she's still not happy. She decides that what she needs, at least in the short term, is a fun girls' night out: She invites her best mommy friend Izzy (Andrea Logan White) and her pastor's wife Sondra (Patricia Heaton) to join her for a nice dinner at a fancy restaurant on Saturday night. Of course, this will require the ladies' husbands to watch the kids. What could go wrong? What ensues is a wacky series of misadventures that include lost dinner reservations, a missing van, a misplaced child, a harrowing car chase, and comic trips to a bowling alley, a tattoo parlor, and the city jail. The slapstick-filled story keeps the laughs coming as the moms' evening goes from mild inconvenience to nightmare-caliber disaster. The uniformly strong cast, led by Grey's Anatomy's Sarah Drew and The Middle's Patricia Heaton (who's also a producer), are delightful and relatable. True, the characters other than Allyson and Sondra are mostly cardboard thin, but the protagonists manage to enliven their harried moms with genuine feeling and great comic timing. And country singer Trace Adkins again proves his acting chops as a tattooed biker (a less menacing version of the one he played in The Lincoln Lawyer) who turns out to be deeper than his rough exterior suggests. Moms' Night Out certainly isn't great cinema, but it is a solid comedy that will prove to be enjoyable for its target audience -- namely, moms who can relate to the many challenges of raising kids. Early on, Allyson's daughter draws flowers and a stick-figure family on the living-room wall. Allyson is furious and starts to repaint it. But when it's time to cover up her daughter's doodles, she just can't bring herself to do it. Instead, she puts frames around them. What first appeared to be a mess turns out to be a blessing. And that's the underlining message of Moms' Night Out. Their disastrous night ends up bringing everyone closer together, and proves that a mom's job, while not always fun, is important and well worth the trouble. Amid the mess, a masterpiece just might emerge.
All Movie Guide - Tim Holland