Film Review: Ma

"Ma" wastes great performance

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Octavia Spencer stars as Sue Ann AKA
Octavia Spencer stars as Sue Ann AKA "Ma". (Photo by: rottentomatoes.com)
Ron Wynn
Ron Wynn

Octavia Spencer is such a great actress she makes Tate Taylor’s horror/spoof “Ma” bearable, but only when she’s on-screen, which is much of the time. There’s no plot or premise other than a middle-aged woman wreaking havoc on a bunch of privileged, not so bright teens who accompany her to a basement seduced by a chance to drink without supervision or concerns about either parents or police discovering them.

Of course, the fact that there’s no sign of security leaves them wide open to being slaughtered by any sort of serial killer, which perfectly describes Spencer’s character.

Things get off to a humdrum start with Maggie (Diana Silvers) agreeing to attend a party with Haley (McKaley Miller) and three boys. Except Maggie somehow ends up in a van with kids who aren’t planning anything except getting totally wasted. When Sue Ann (Spencer) shows up after many other adults refuse to buy the kids booze, she supposedly takes pity on them and buys some liquor. But that’s just the start of things going really bad for this group.

Sue Ann begins doing horrid things with a gleeful, scary look, and a demeanor that says “hey, I could do this all day.” It’s an indicator of how great an actress Spencer really is in that she can be so utterly convincing one minute as a nice, non-threatening nanny type, and the next equally scary as a psycho killer. Taylor isn’t trying to shock or stun or even surprise anyone with “Ma.” It’s basic slice-and-dice stuff featuring at least two people (Spencer and Juliette Lewis) who’ve been in better films, and presumably will go on to superior ones in the future.

“Ma” is a throwaway, classic summer junk. It’s enjoyable and utterly forgettable.

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