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Let me start by saying I can’t deny that I really want to hate this movie. After watching the first trailer, I was convinced Bad Moms was going to be train wreck, a mess of one contrived comedy gag after another, and while it’s no masterpiece, it’s often funny and sometimes even smart. I’m not a parent, nor a woman, but I imagine there’s a lot that happens in this movie that hits home in all the right ways for moms all over.
And speaking of moms, Amy (Mila Kunis) is a perfect one, or at least she tries to be. Having her first child very young, she now has two and loves them dearly, dedicating herself to doing everything she can to give them all the best, including doing their homework, driving to them school, and so much more. She’s stressed to the breaking point, but won’t give up. On top of that, she works for a rich millennial who is totally out of touch, her doofus husband is fooling around online, and most affecting, she’s facing the wrath of Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate) the PTA president, a self-obsessed, conniving, power-hungry woman with huge ambitions and a plan to make Amy’s life a living hell.
But Amy’s not in it alone. At her side are two other moms, a mother named Kiki (Kristen Bell) who home-schools her four young children, and Karla (Kathryn Hahn), a mom who’s already a little on the outside and happy about it. The three make a pact to get off the expected path and quit playing up to expectations and cut loose. Part of that is to take on Gwendolyn and dethrone her as president, which incurs a string of retaliatory strikes. And even while it seems like a sure thing for Amy, there are still lessons to be learned.
Written and directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, two men who wrote the first The Hangover, Bad Moms is a crass, stylized fantasy that manages to feel somewhat authentic anyway, giving these characters a surprising sense of depth. Yes, they are exaggerated but they would sort of have to be wouldn’t they? Lucas and Moore walk a very thin line, occasionally dipping a little too much on either side, tugging on the absurd while leaning towards drama. That’s probably best illustrated in the movie’s most outlandish sequence where the three moms run amok in a grocery store, tearing through sugary cereals and liquor like crazed drunken teenagers in a B-grade sex comedy movie. Filmed in super slo-motion, the scene is easily the most fantastical and hardest to fit in with the the rest of the movie, which tends to keep things a lot more grounded.
While there’s plenty of silly here, it is the highly energetic performances and total commitment to the characters of these woman who totally sell it. Kunis is fun and has consistently proven herself tailor-made for the genre and is easy to get behind as she leads us ever forward. Bell, reuniting with Kunis from Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008), is sharp and has several almost laugh-out-loud moments. Yet it’s Hahn who is perhaps most memorable, one of the best comedy supporting players out there, giving to the role total abandon and making it work.
The movie is decidedly adult, with one brief full-frontal female moment but lots of in-your-face naughty girl talk that mostly hits the mark, though feels a little forced. All of the men in the film are rightfully plugged into trope-ish slots with the above-mentioned husband (David Walton) a complete dolt and the widower Jessie (Jay Hernandez) a love interest with a six-pack and an adorable little girl. The other men are either inept and incapable of accomplishing anything without a woman or obnoxious control freaks who get their comeuppance. No sense complaining about them since we’ve endured decades upon decades of women painted similar in broad strokes.
Bad Moms throws everything it can into getting a laugh, and there’s nary a rock left unturned along the familiar path, but there’s no denying the enthusiasm and plenty of well-earned moments, including a surprisingly affecting credit sequence that comes out of nowhere. Bad Moms is a pretty good time.
Directors: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
Writers: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
Stars: Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn, Kristen Bell, Christina Applegate