The company that made Courageous, October Baby, and FireProof released a new movie this month: Mom’s Night Out. I don’t often review movies, but I wanted to write about this one because of how it got slammed by main-stream reviewers as sexist and condescending. The truth is, the movie is anything but and those reviews really serve as a reminder of how disconnected the entertainment culture is from a Christian world view.
Each of Provident Film’s releases is better than the one before, and this movie is no exception. It is the first of their films to use a cast of already familiar secular actors (such as Sean Astin from The Lord of the Rings trilogy and Trace Adkins from Lincoln Lawyer, who join a few of the regulars from other Provident movies) as well as a soundtrack filled with popular secular songs. It is well written, well acted, and easily the most produced of Provident’s films so far.
It is still obviously a Christian movie—and by “Christian movie” I mean it presents a Christian world-view, Christian values, and a Christian message. This is a movie that is only likely to be enjoyed by believers. So much of the content, from the plot to the jokes to the characters themselves, will really only resonate with Christians. That’s because In order to enjoy this movie, you need to be familiar with a culture that has stay-at-home moms, hard-working dads, and pastor’s wives.
Here is a litmus test: does a mom having a new mini-van count as A) a blessing, or B) an indicator of an unfortunate stage of life? If you answered B, this movie is not for you.
The plot is somewhat simple. A stay-at-home mom and wannabe Mommy Blogger has reached a point in her personal life where she needs a break. She convinces a friend to go out on a mom’s night together, and then they invite the pastor’s wife to join them. They arrange for the husbands to watch the kids, and then set out for a night of fun. The evening itself is marked by misfortune that is somewhat predictable—the reservation gets messed up, a pet dies, a child goes missing, and so does the minivan. All of these events uncover the heart attitude of the wannabe Mommy Blogger—namely, she has impossible standards for herself. She really, really, really wants to be the perfect mom, but she just isn’t good enough. “Good enough for who?” someone else finally asks her.
This plot can make sense to anyone, but is probably only fully appreciated by Christians. Mainstream reviewers slammed the concept that moms are better at caring for kids as “ugly sexism,” or “stereo-typical and condescending.” One reviewer wrote that the stay-at-home mom and the hard working dad:
“aren’t caricatures, per se, but in the behavior-reinforcing fashion of simple sitcom, we see an unflattering portrait of brittle, hostile, hustling, neurotic modern suburban control freaks.Who ought to listen to their man, and the Father.”
When I read reviews like those, it dawned on me that many people just simply wouldn’t get the point. They thought it was esteeming a controlling and perfectionist mother, rather than describing motherhood! And that observation in-turn reminded me that I can’t remember another movie that presented a hard working dad and stay-at-home mom as a good thing. If that couple makes a Hollywood appearance at all, it is usually in a negative light.
Mom’s Night Out is a comedy. But it is a comedy that is actually funny, and particularly if you are in the stage of life where you have a few kids, and the idea of a night away from them sounds both fun and impossible. In fact, I don’t think I would have found this movie funny 2 years ago. But at the point of life where I am now, with three kids and a crazy schedule, the tone of the movie was spot-on.
Some reviewers point out that because everything went wrong, the lesson the movie was subvertly trying to give is that moms should NOT try and get out for a night. As in, “look, they tried to have fun and instead a kid got stuck in a vending machine!” (But who of us has not had one of our kids get stuck in a vending machine?) Yet that is the opposite point the movie made. The plot was there for the humor, and the obvious moral was that being a mom is hard, should be esteemed, and that God gives grace to those who serve him—especially to mothers.
That is not to say that this was a perfect movie. Some of the plot twists were a bit outrageous, not the least of which was the biker gang scene at the end (and in fact, that cheesiness in the plot is also responsible for some of the negative reviews–see this one by Mike McGranaghan, for example). Bones, played by Trace Atkins, was a bit of a surreal character even for a comedy; I still can’t figure out if he was supposed to be helpful or evil—I mean isn’t he the one that lost the kid to begin with?
But with that said, I’d encourage any couple at this stage of life to see Mom’s Night Out. Provident Films partnered with MOPS to market the movie, so if there is a MOPS group in your church it is likely that others have seen it. If you are looking for a movie from a Christian world view that will make you laugh, and make it worth it to get a sitter for the kids, then don’t be deterred by the low reviews this got. Just make sure you leave the baby sitter with the mini-van.