If by some weird chance you're heading into Moms' Night Out expecting to see a laffer along the lines of something like Neighbors, then you haven't been paying much attention to the film's trailers and, as well, you obviously haven't bothered to look at the film's cast listing.
Patricia Heaton? You remember her as the mom from Everybody Loves Raymond, but people of faith will also know her as an actress who chooses her films carefully and who wouldn't be caught committing to a bawdy or naughty flick no matter what the paycheck.
Alex Kendrick? He's one of the biggest names in Christian cinema these days largely known for his efforts with brother Stephen in bringing to life such films as Facing the Giants, Courageous, and Fireproof.
While Sarah Drew, recently of Grey's Anatomy fame, may have a bit more mainstream of a career her presence here isn't exactly a surprise. Trace Adkins? He's widely known as one of country music's more conservative stars.
If we're being honest, only Sean Astin has truly made a name for himself in anything resembling secular cinema in such flicks as the Lord of the Rings films and a few other. However, even Astin may be more widely remembered for his popular portrayal in the inspirational sports flick Rudy.
In other words, while it almost goes without saying that the bigger budgeted and more widely released Neighbors will capture more of the box-office bucket this opening weekend it wouldn't exactly be a surprise to see Moms' Night Out become the latest family friendly, faith inspired flick to prove the growing financial influence of the faith-based moviegoer.
While Moms' Night Out is far from a preachy film, there's really no question that its strong values-based dialogue and messages will scare away pretty much anyone except for those seeking a truly family friendly comic experience. Unless you have the kind of friends who are offended if you even mention church, since Patricia Heaton does play a pastor's wife here, Moms' Night Out is that rare faith-based film that should be easy enough to take even those folks in your life who shy away from the usual faith-based fare. On more than one occasion, I found myself thinking about the 80's teen flick Adventures in Babysitting while watching Moms' Night Out, a rather simple film that centers around a group of mothers desperate for, you guessed it, a night out away from the kids.
Allyson (Sarah Drew) is a tightly wound Type A personality with an unfathomably patient husband (Sean Astin) who completely supports her need to unwind with Sondra (Patricia Heaton), the pastor's wife, and Allyson's bestest of friends, Izzy (Andrea Logan White). Izzy is dealing with quite a bit of stress herself as the mother of twins with a hubby (Robert Amaya) who is struggling with the whole parenting thing while not yet knowing that there's actually another baby on the way.
Moms' Night Out is funny, but in a safer sense that isn't always identified as funny these days, and has a memorable supporting performance from Trace Adkins as a motorcycle gang leader who serves up the film's major life lessons. Heaton, who is one of the producers for the film, also serves up its most impressive performance with what I can only call a Heatonesque weaving together of heart and humor that is just perfect for this film.
Moms' Night Out does require a suspension of belief and, as much as it's definitely on the safer end of comedies coming out of Hollywood, I'd dare say that some in the evangelical community may actually find it a tad too edgy for faith-based cinema.
For those of you who read my interview with Kevin Downes, one of the film's producers and also a supporting player, then you already know that Moms' Night Out is very much intended as a celebration of motherhood. Indeed, amidst all the humor there's a tremendous heart and admiration for those who mother and do so well and, sometimes, do so not incredibly well. While it goes against the grain of what Hollywood considers a comedy these days, Moms' Night Out is a faith-based and family friendly comedy that lives out its values while finding humor along the way.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic