I tend to be kind of cranky about Christian films. I usually love the messages that they contain, but they’re made as an evangelistic tool, yet executed so that only those who are already Christians want to see them. They also tend to have amateur actors, and the overall quality of the film makes it hard to watch all the way through, which only causes further divide in Christian media rather than enabling Christians to reach non-Christians with their art. Mom’s Night Out, however, is a step in the right direction.
Made by the same creative team that produced October Baby, Mom’s Night Out features three moms who are in over their heads in diapers, stress, and drama. No matter what they do, they feel like the walls are closing in and they can’t take anymore. So they get a great idea – they’ll have a night out, and the husbands will take care of the kids. Nothing could go wrong right?
. . . right?
What ensues is a comical adventure that had me rolling in belly laughs numerous times, as well as some refreshing and surprising revelations about the characters that made them much more believable than your typical church-going film characters. The film explores real people with real problems. The main character, Allyson, has a sister-in-law with a child out of wedlock and a deadbeat boyfriend who isn’t good at stepping up and being a father. Trace Adkins’ character, Bones, works at a tattoo parlor and has connections to a biker gang. Like in real life, the movie doesn’t create two-dimensional characters who have very G-rated, sanitated lives. There are people who’ve made mistakes and people who have to live with some of those consequences, which ultimately makes the film a lot more relatable.
And what’s more, the film is legitimately funny, and it does so without resorting to innuendos or other raunchy sources of humor like secular films. And yet, it does so while refraining from the urge to be overly preachy or inserting an altar call, making it easier for the film to focus around a few key themes, mostly dealing with the fact that happiness is not about always having an awesome life every day. That’s a lie, as Sondra tells Allyson. That’s as close as the film gets to a lecture, and it really feels appropriate given the message of the film as a whole. It fits very nicely with the apostle Paul’s focus on joy in the book of Philippians, which he writes from prison. Joy isn’t about being happy all the time. It’s about placing your meaning and satisfaction in the things that are most important.
Mom’s Night Out also benefits from the appearance of characters who truly do their roles justice. Sean Astin, well-known for his roles as Sam in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the titular role in Rudy, appears as Allyson’s husband Sean. Sean thinks he can take care of the kids, but things quickly get out of hand, which he as an actor takes with a strong measure of brilliance. Patricia Heaton, well-known for her role as Debra in the popular sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, also does a great job in her role as the pastor’s wife Sondra. To be fair, some performances are less superb. Alex Kendrick’s performance as Pastor Ray feels more obligated than enhancing, and the other former Sherwood actors have hit-and-miss performances. But the acting overall is much better than I expected from an explicitly Christian film.
Beyond the laudable Christian concepts, the film really is entertaining. It’s a bright side for Christian film in a subgenre that has been dominated by low-quality films that do more alienating than edifying. This, as opposed to the Christian films before it, could be a sign that things could improve for Christian film, and if so, I dearly hope that trend continues.