Mother’s Day, the third film in director Garry Marshall’s mission to turn every major holiday into a ponderous, maudlin multi-story rom-com, is out this Friday, and I cannot tell you if it’s any good – as in, I’m literally forbidden from reviewing it, as it is embargoed from review until 9pm EDT Thursday night, two hours after its first screening time in New York, which is of course a very good sign and no hint whatsoever as to the quality of the film. So, restricted from saying yay or nay on the picture until then, let’s take a look at the worst film each of the key contributors to Mother’s Day, before Mother’s Day. Not that we’re implying Mother’s Day is worse than any of them, as we’re forbidden from saying so. Anyway. Where was I?
Jennifer Aniston (actor): He’s Just Not That Into You
This is Aniston’s first appearance in one of Marshall’s multi-narrative stories of mens and womens and the cuh-razy things they do for love, but she certainly wasn’t flying blind – she previously appeared in Ken Kwapis’s 2009 film adaptation of Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo’s self-help book (no, really), itself an adaptation of a line of Sex in the City dialogue (NO, REALLY). And He’s Just… is utterly insufferable, a kind of Americanized Love Actually (without even that film’s minimal charms) overstuffed with actors and plots and subplots, all of which basically boil down to a single, revoltingly retrograde lesson: A woman must have a man to be happy, so to land one, you have to know their tricks – and you can learn them all, because all men are exactly the same. All of which might be easier to swallow if the film were the least bit funny, or warm, or insightful. No such luck.
Julia Roberts (actor): Valentine’s Day
You can’t blame Ms. Roberts for feeling some sense of loyalty to Mr. Marshall – after all, he directed her in the role that made her a superstar, as Viv the hooker with the heart of gold, in the surprise 1990 hit Pretty Woman . But frankly, she more than repaid that debt by reteaming with co-star Richard Gere nine years later for the aggressively mediocre Runaway Bride; coming back for the first in Marshall’s trilogy from hell, 2010’s Valentine’s Day, makes her sound less like a friend or frequent collaborator than a glutton for punishment.
Kate Hudson (actor): Raising Helen
Like Roberts, Hudson’s previous lowlight was also her last team-up with Marshall: this 2004 monstrosity, with Hudson as club-hopping modeling agency assistant who ends up in charge of her nieces and nephews and discovers it’s just impossible to have a career and kids at the same time. Everything falls apart – until she gets a boyfriend and the approval of her male boss and co-workers. Have I mentioned that this tale of making your way in the world as a woman is written and directed entirely by dudes?
Jason Sudeikis (actor): Hall Pass
You can hardly blame Sudeikis – still an SNL player trying to break into features – for taking a leading role in a Farrelly Brothers movie back in 2011. After all, these were the directors of There’s Something About Mary and Kingpin! Trouble is, both of those movies were way in the rearview by the time they made Hall Pass, their impact blunted by not only their own increasingly depressing filmography, but the success of filmmakers like Judd Apatow and Todd Phillips in the R-rated comedy. Hall Pass isn’t just miserably unfunny; it’s like watching the movies Bob Hope and Jerry Lewis were making in the late ‘60s, seemingly unaware that comedy styles had changed and they hadn’t changed with them.
Timothy Olyphant (actor): Dreamcatcher
Olyphant is choosy enough these days that it’s not that easy to pinpoint a recent turkey – after all, we’re talking about Raylan Givens here. But hey, remember back in 2003, when he starred in Lawrence Kasdan’s adaptation of Stephen King’s book about alien rectal worms?
Margo Martindale (actor): Days of Thunder
You have to dip back even further into the filmography of Olyphant’s Justified co-star to find a picture the brilliant Martindale doesn’t at least lift by virtue of her sheer force of personality. But one of her very first roles was in Days of Thunder, Tony Scott’s unintentionally hilarious Top Gun/Cocktail/Color of Money remake, in which Tom Cruise (previously the World’s Greatest Fighter Pilot, World’s Greatest Bartender, and World’s Greatest Pool Player) is the World’s Greatest Racecar Driver. Martindale had, she insists, “maybe three words or four” in the role; perhaps with a larger role, she could’ve saved the day as usual.
Jon Lovitz (actor): The Ridiculous Six
Lovitz, on the other hand, has quite the sketchy resume, thanks to his friendship with Adam Sandler — and so, as with seemingly all of Sandler’s friends, he’s made numerous appearances in the Happy Madison Cinematic Universe, including The Benchwarmers, Grown Ups 2, Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star, and Little Nicky. But you can rely on each Sandler-related movie to be worse than the last one (as they continue to make money, their “writers” and “directors” continue to test how little effort can put into them), so let’s just crown December’s made-for-Netflix Ridiculous Six the worst of the worst and carry on.
Hector Elizondo (actor): New Year’s Eve
One must be careful about repetition here, because Elizondo and Marshall are so inseparable – the charming character actor has appeared in every single Garry Marshall feature, all the way back to 1982’s Young Doctors in Love. But just to spread the wealth, let’s go ahead and slot New Year’s Eve in here, Marshall’s laughless, lifeless, soulless, all-star clusterfuck that’s predicated entirely on the notion that everyone in New York wants nothing more than to be in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. And frankly, this one deserves special demerit for wasting one of Marshall’s most talented casts: Michelle Pfieffer, Hillary Swank, Robert De Niro, Halle Berry, Sarah Paulson, Abigail Breslin, Cherry Jones, Zac Efron, Cary Elwes, Sofia Vergara, and many, many more show up, and not a damn one of them can do anything with this garbage material.
Anya Kochoff (writer): Monster-In-Law
Ya gotta give Marshall credit for dedication: tasked with creating a movie about mothers, he went out and hired, as one of his three screenwriters, the golden pen behind one of the worst movies about mothers ever made. That would be this 2005 disaster, which stars Jennifer Lopez as a sassy single gal (with a gay best friend, even!) locking horns with mother-in-law Jane Fonda. The materials – and cast – were there for a deliciously nasty piece of work, but no such luck; this is one of those heartfelt comedies where the conflicts are slight, and everything’s mopped up with the soppy Kleenex of a good heart-to-heart. Blech.
Garry Marshall (director): Exit to Eden
Credit where due: from 1984 to 1991, Marshall went on a helluva run, directing a series of first-rate comedy/dramas. Not all were masterpieces, but The Flamingo Kid, Nothing in Common, Overboard, Beaches, Pretty Woman, and Frankie and Johnny were all at least okay, and some are downright great. But the fall came fast and hard with Exit to Eden, his 1994 adaptation of Anne Rice’s novel, which took that BDSM-heavy tale and turned into (no joke) a cop movie action/comedy, though the latter half of that equation rested entirely on the inherent hilarity of Rosie O’Donnell and Dan Aykroyd in bondage gear. After that, there was no looking back: Dear God, The Other Sister, Princess Diaries 1 & 2, the aforementioned Runaway Bride, the aforementioned Raising Helen, Georgia Rule, the aforementioned Valentine’s Day, and the aforementioned New Year’s Eve. And now, here we are. How does Mother’s Day stack up? Only time will tell.