'Moms' Night Out' ignites conversation about faith-based films and humor
Saeed Adyani, Associated Press
"Moms' Night Out," a faith-based film that stars Patricia Heaton (who is also the executive producer of the movie) and Sean Astin, is going where few Christian films have successfully gone before — into the realm of comedy.
The film, which was released on 1,000 screens nationwide on May 9, is about a group of mothers who decide they need a night to themselves, according to Paul Bond at The Hollywood Reporter.
"We're calling it a mom-com," Jon Erwin, a co-director of the film, told Bond. "My goal was to make a movie where moms can identify with everything on the screen and be reminded of how valuable they are."
Heaton told writer Kathy Schiffer at Patheos the film is an uplifting comedy the entire family can watch.
"Comedy is really such a great icebreaker and a great way for people to have a great time and be entertained; if they also come away feeling positively impacted, that’s great," Heaton told Schiffer. "There are a lot of comedies that come out —but most of them are R-rated, so you can’t really take your kids to them. It’s nice to be able to see a movie having your parents there and your kids there with you."
But will clean, faith-based humor appeal to a wide audience? Eric Marrapodi at CNN asked experts this question.
Kutter Callaway, a professor of culture and theology at Fuller Theological Seminary, told Marrapodi it's difficult for Christians to create humorous stories.
"Part of what is necessary for humor ... is there needs to be a tension there. There needs to be something dark or a tragic that makes life funny," Callaway said.
"Christians struggle with humor just like they struggle with how to posture themselves with anything that is dark or provocative," he said.
That's one of the problems Mike D'Angelo at A.V. Club saw in "Moms' Night Out."
"There's a certain amusing cognitive dissonance in seeing the general form of an R-rated comedy applied to material that barely nudges its way into PG territory," wrote D'Angelo. "The jokes are just as broad and obvious. ... But the sense of transgression that usually drives a movie like this is completely absent, replaced by frantic responsibility."
"'Moms' Night Out' is neither as sententious as one might fear nor as crass as one might hope. Mostly, it’s just bland," he said.
Whether or not most audiences find the film funny, Craig Detweiler, a filmmaker who has helped market films to churches, said Christian comedy is possible, according to CNN.
"I think it will surprise people who tend to associate Christianity with roots in tragedy instead of comedy," Detweiler said. "But Jesus was known for his parables that ended in punch lines. He was pretty good with zingers."
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