At long last, American movie audiences have a real choice when it comes to comedy.

In theaters this weekend, a pair of funny films are vying for box office dollars. The first is “Neighbors,” an R-rated, intelligence-insulting raunch fest, but still a laugh-out-loud movie boosted with recognizable Hollywood stars and top-quality production.

The second is “Mom’s Night Out,” a movie made by Christians that affirms faith and family.

But wait! There’s more!

Because for perhaps the first time, this “Christian” film is also a laugh-out-loud movie boosted with recognizable Hollywood stars and top-quality production.

Believe it or not, Christian filmmaking has finally arrived, making movies that elicit more cheers than jeers, movies that kick cheese out the door and can actually compete in quality with the rest of Hollywood. And “Mom’s Night Out” is a flagship for this new wave of filmmaking.

“Mom’s Night Out” follows the misadventures of a mommy blogger who is drowning under the pressure of family life and her own, heavy expectations. At the end of her rope, she decides to grab a couple of other girlfriends and get away for just an evening, to have a “Mom’s Night Out.”

How much can go wrong in just one night? Plenty! Stolen vehicles, trips to the emergency room, high-speed car chases, leaving the guys in charge of the kids, a hoity-toity maitre d’, a parakeet named “Mama” on the loose and more provide plenty of laughs.

More than just hijinks, however (though there are plenty of those), “Mom’s Night Out” is startlingly relatable, touching in an authentic, meaningful and affirming way the heart of a mother who loves her children but is torn up inside by the stress and fears of inadequacy that plague parenthood, and specifically, motherhood.

In fact, the movie’s most creative content comes even before the “Mom’s Night” goes horribly wrong, as audiences are introduced to a mom they can relate to, even as her world is unraveling at the seams. The heart evident in these first few moments somehow survives the calamity and chaos and all the more helps to bring a message of hope and affirmation to all the mothers who have ever felt like they were hanging on by their (chipped) fingernails.

With a powerful, faith-affirming, family-affirming and mom-affirming message – and coming from the same directors who brought audiences “October Baby” – you might, however, expect the film to be only fairly funny. You might expect its dialogue to be stilted and spoken by amateur actors. You might expect … well, what we’ve come to expect from “Christian” filmmaking.

But you’d be wrong.

The movie is both fun and funny, both touching and well-made. Plus, it’s brought to life by a cast with credibility, including Patricia Heaton (of TV’s “Everybody Loves Raymond”), Sarah Drew (of TV’s “Grey’s Anatomy”), country music star Trace Adkins and actor Sean Astin (of “The Lord of the Rings”).

To put it simply, this movie is legit.

And it’s made by Christians.

And it affirms biblical values rather than insulting them.

And it’s funny.

And it’s about time movie audiences finally had a choice like “Mom’s Night Out” to take mom out to.

Content advisory:

  • “Mom’s Night Out,” rated PG, contains neither obscenity nor profanity.
  • The film contains a few kisses and a few sexual references, a song lyric about a “sexy lady,” but no nudity or significant sexual content.
  • The movie has some slapstick violence, but also car chase, a woman being tased, a man being punched and a head-butt. A character also resets his dislocated shoulder by banging into objects.
  • The film has several religious references, including a small portion of a sermon and a touching moral-of-the-story moment, but it’s surprisingly not “preachy.” The film’s primary characters know one another through church, so there are some discussions of faith and church, but again, not preachy. Several scenes take place in a tattoo parlor, and there are some skulls and other potentially, but not explicitly, occult images.

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