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FIRST-PERSON: Critics slam a clean movie

ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP) — “Mom’s Night Out,” a movie currently in theaters, is being ravaged by film critics. On the popular Internet site Rotten Tomatoes, which aggregates movie reviews, only 14 percent of reviews were positive.

The film features three mothers who seek to have a night out away from their families, especially their children. Predictably — it is a comedic movie after all — everything goes wrong and an evening of humorous chaos ensues.

The acting performances in the film are fine. Anchoring the cast are Sarah Drew of the hit TV show “Grey’s Anatomy,” Patricia Heaton of television’s “The Middle” and “Everyone Loves Raymond,” and Sean Astin who was in the “Lord of the Rings” films and starred in the movie “Rudy.”

So what is the problem critics have with the movie? Why did 86 percent dismiss the film?

Here’s a sampling of critic complaints:

“There’s nothing inherently wrong with faith-based entertainment. The problem comes when, as with any heavily slanted perspective, the faith takes precedent over the entertainment.” – Elizabeth Weitzman, New York Daily News.

“Depressingly regressive and borderline dangerous, ‘Mom’s Night Out’ peddles archaic notions of gender roles in the name of wacky laughs… Why must faith-based offerings be so lame — worst of all — so out of touch with reality?” -– Marc Snetiker, Entertainment Weekly.

“Outrageously enough, the moral of ‘Mom’s Night Out,’ seems to be that moms should never get a night out. This Mother’s Day weekend release is pretty much a PG-rated ‘The Hangover,’ but with an ill-fitting God angle that slowly wedges into the movie — an agenda that, in retrospect, explains the conspicuous lack of booze, drugs, and sex.” – Heather Baysa, Village Voice.

I could go on presenting slams from supposedly “open minded” critics, but I will spare you. It is clear that the reviewers could not stomach a movie that is clean, free from gratuitous nudity, promiscuous sex, foul-language and alcohol and drug consumption.

In essence “Mom’s Night Out” is a clean movie. The families portrayed in the film all attend the same church. One member of the mom trio is the pastor’s wife. There are a few positive references to God sprinkled throughout the movie. Nary a swear word is uttered. There is no drug use, no one gets drunk and everyone remains clothed.

While the critics might think a movie with a few positive references to God constitutes a “faith-based” film, I do not. However, to hear God’s name used as anything other than a reference point for curse words in a movie is likely received as refreshing by people who see faith as integral to their lives.

Again, “Mom’s Night Out” is nothing more than a fun film free from content that a significant segment of American society still finds offensive.

One critic said that “faith-based” films were out of touch with reality and, in this instance, missed the mark by portraying mothers who stay at home to care for their children. The stay at home mom angle was slammed by more than one critic.

Perhaps the critics of “Mom’s Night Out” should add reading of news to their film watching. USA Today reported the following last month: “Nearly three in 10 American mothers are now stay-at-home moms who don’t hold a job outside the home, reversing a long-term decline that hit its low point in 1999, a new survey finds.”

Research by the Pew Research Center shows “that the percentage of mothers of children under 18 who don’t work outside the home has risen over the past decade to 29% in 2012, up from 23% in 1999. Two-thirds of them are ‘traditional’ married stay-at-home mothers with working husbands,” USA Today reported.

It seems stay-at-home moms are a growing reality and, perhaps, many of them identify with the premise of “Mom’s Night Out.” The film, only showing on 1,046 screens, is doing well at the box office.

What I find most interesting is the wailing, weeping and gnashing of teeth by critics over a clean movie supposedly being unrealistic and out of touch with reality. Really?

Anytime a movie is criticized as containing too much sex, violence, alcohol, drug use or profanity by Christian or conservative groups, the film critics are quick to retort, “It’s just a movie. It is just entertainment. It isn’t supposed be confused with reality.”

Let me respond to the movie critics’ laments of “Mom’s Night Out” in kind. It is just a movie. It is just entertainment. Clean entertainment I might add.

The two top grossing movies (no pun intended) for the weekend of May 16-18 were “Godzilla” and “Neighbors” — two films that are far removed from reality.

“Godzilla” is a remake about a dinosaur-like monster who wreaks havoc on humans. “Neighbors” is about a couple with a new baby living in suburbia who have a college fraternity move in next door; debauched chaos ensues. In-touch and realistic? Hardly.

Seventy-three percent of reviewers per Rotten Tomatoes gave “Godzilla” a positive review and 75 percent liked “Neighbors.” However, 86 percent ripped “Mom’s Night Out.”

There is one consolation, one that really counts, and that is according to Rotten Tomatoes, 86 percent of movie-goers who have watched “Mom’s Night Out” liked it.

Movie reviewers who dismiss the clean nature of “Mom’s Night Out” as well as its positive references to God should take the advice of singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, “Don’t criticize what you don’t understand.”
Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press, director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s office of public affairs, and editor of the Baptist Message (www.baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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  • Kelly Boggs