Bad Moms and all the images you see in this review are owned by STX Entertainment
Directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore
It’s the triumphant return of Mila Kunis who… actually didn’t really go anywhere, but then Jupiter Ascending does feel like it came out a LONG time ago. Anyway, the trailers for this movie really didn’t inspire much hope as it looked like an unholy mashup between Mother’s Day and Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, but the cast is pretty strong which is both good for this movie and also depressing considering really great actresses like the aforementioned Mila Kunis as well as Katheryn Hahn, Kristen Bell, Christina Applegate, and Jada Pinkett Smith are stuck doing stuff like this which in all honestly looks pretty bad. Does this movie manage to rise above expectations and turn out to be a delightful romp, or is this another failed comedy that’s trying way too hard and completely failing at being edgy? Let’s find out!!
The movie is all about Amy (Mila Kunis) who’s a mother of two and is struggling with the worst white people problems you can imagine! Her kids need rides to their extracurricular activities, she’s not appreciated at her high paying job, and her husband is a lazy slob who masturbates a lot. Okay, the PTA is an overbearing monstrosity headed up by the EVIL Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate) and her cronies (Jada Pinkett Smith and Annie Mumolo) so that sucks, not to mention that her husband is masturbating with another woman which is REALLY fucked up when they’ve been hiding it from Amy for ten months, so she’s on the edge of nervous breakdown. What could possibly put her over the edge? THE BAKE SALE! SCREW THAT SHIT! She’s done with ALL of this and is about to do HORRIBLE things like… have her twelve year old kids make their own breakfast and not go to the insane PTA meetings. Huh. Well, she finds some compatriots in her quest to become a “Bad Mom” (quotes very intentional here) in the form of Carla (Kathryn Hahn) who really IS a bad mom and Kiki (Kristen Bell) who’s in a really unhealthy relationship and is on the verge of her own emotional collapse. So they basically transition from being overbearing mothers to ones who demand space from their familes and for them to take on more responsibilities in their own lives. Doesn’t sound like much of a problem, but this doesn’t go unnoticed by Gwendolyn who maintains her iron grip on the PTA through intimidation and fear, so this “Bad Mom” as it were is a threat to her little totalitarian state and she will put a stop to it by taking it out on Amy’s kids. Oh HELL no! Amy’s not about to take that shit lying down, so on top of spreading the gospel of “Bad Moms”, she’s also going to run for PTA president to unseat the HBIC and be the HBIC herself! Can Amy succeed in getting the other parents on her side to stop Gwendolyn’s reign of terror? What consequences will this new form of parenting have on her home life and her children? Just how “BAD” are these mom’s gonna get!?
The movie is actually a lot better than I expected it to be, but it stops short of being great. What I was reminded most of while watching this is the Judd Apatow classic Knocked Up in that it’s trying to ride that balance between true sincerity and raunchy humor; a feat that Knocked Up manages flawlessly but that this movie doesn’t quite pull off. It’s disjointed in places, some of the emotional moments fall flat or are WAY too saccharin, and it has that one problem that every comedy has (and is annoyingly attributed to the aforementioned Apatow despite him knowing how to actually fucking do it right) which is the improv humor isn’t reigned in and stops the movie dead in spots so that all the actors can get their little jokes out. That said, it’s REALLY hilarious in places, all the actresses bring their A-game to the material, and it’ll make you feel the warm and fuzzies despite itself which is more than you can say about most comedies we get. Comedy is not easy and those out there who are great at it are recognized as such because of how unbelievably well they’ve mastered such a hard genre. This movie lacks the discipline to be on par with what it’s imitating, but it’s not a bad knock off and definitely has its own sense of charm that lets it stand out from the pack.
So first things first, the title of the movie is supposed to be taken ironically… for the most part. They aren’t bad moms by any reasonable person’s standard which is the whole point here as the film seems to be a reaction to Modern ParentingTM. Now usually this sort of THINGS WERE BETTER IN THE OLD DAYS bullshit annoys the hell out of me, but I think what helps here is that this comes off as a straight up fantasy and not something that we’re supposed to take too seriously. Maybe you can see it as propagandist against helicopter moms and the current attitudes about a mother’s responsibility to not only their kids but to the school as well (show the most absurd example of something and rail against it as if it’s true) but the movie takes such a light tone throughout that the moments where it does try to tell us the moral of the story feel just as cartoonish as everything else on screen. Hell, there’s a big speech where one of the characters extols the virtues of not being held to such high standards that is immediately followed by the other moms in the audience shouting about the messed up things they’ve done to their own kids. Now despite the fantasy element working in the movies favor as far as keeping it from being too preachy, it does mean it’s hard to take the movie as anything but a farce which makes the emotional beats lose some of their impact; not to mention that by being so arch and simplistic means that some the story elements fall flat on their face. On the one hand, the movie has a really positive view of divorce which is nice to see. On the other hand, her husband is such a pathetic loser in this that the idea he somehow managed to convince Mila Kunis to not only have sex with him but bear his two children is more cringe worthy than any of the gross out humor in here. Her new love interest by the way isn’t much better as he’s the opposite of the extreme; in that he’s super-hot, super caring, and has no real wants or needs of his own rather than to make Mila Kunis happy. I don’t even remember what the dude’s name is, though I’m fairly certain it was Beefcake or Sexy Pants. The one thing we DO know about the guy is that he’s a widower, yet that never comes up in any of the scenes he has with Mila Kunis, but that’s unimportant because they’re fulfilling a fantasy with this movie. Probably the worst example of this sense of unreality though is there’s a scene where she’s trying to pick up a guy and not a single dude at this singles bar wants anything to do with her because… reasons. The movie makes motherhood sound like it’s some sort of metamorphosis into a whole new species which I guess can work as a running gag, but it’s hard to take seriously when it’s Mila Kunis of all people who still looks like she’s twenty two.
Despite that, the movie manages to succeed mainly through the trio here of Mila Kunis, Kristin Bell, and Kathryn Hahn as the titular Bad Moms. Of the three, Kathryn Hahn is definitely the standout as she has the best material and the best delivery as the ACTUAL bad mom but she also manages to have the most genuinely sweet moment in the entire movie. Kirsten Bell as well is really good in her part as the overworked and underappreciated doormat to her husband (it’d be horrifying if they took this seriously in the least), but my problem with her is that the subplot involving her husband being a misogynistic dick bag has absolutely no substance or development between the introduction and swiftly wrapped up resolution. That story in particular would have been really interesting to go deeper into, but it’s left to the sidelines to make more room for Mila Kunis and her problems. Speaking of whom, she’s really trying hard in this movie and she manages to pull it off for the most part, but there are times where she doesn’t seem very genuine (there’s a long gag about foreskin and she’s easily the weakest part of the joke) which is a problem as she’s the audience POV character. That said she does have the most to do here so a lot of the better moments are reserved for her which is where she gets to shine. Also, she’s the most grounded of the three, so it’s possible Kathryn Hahn or Kristen Bell’s characters would have run out of steam if they were the real focus here considering how broadly they’re drawn.
On the less positive side, the movie makes no bones about the Good MomsTM being the exact opposite of such which can get REALLY annoying as Christina Applegate can apparently do whatever the fuck she wants simply because she’s head of the PTA (*cough* bullshit *cough*) and will also go to any lengths to enact her petty vengeance including framing a child by stuffing drugs in their locker, but she manages to play the role very well so it’s not so much the execution of the character rather than the way they are written. They just wind up taking it so far with her character throughout the movie that when we get to the finale and they want somewhat of a redemption arc for her, you don’t buy it because by the end of the movie there’s still a whole lot of karmic (and legal) backlash that’s heading her way. Then again we’re dealing with a straight up fantasy here so I guess we’re not supposed to take it too seriously. Jada Pinkett Smith and Annie Mumolo as her flunkies are okay in here, but they have so little to do here other than to suck up to Christina Applegate which means they could pretty much have been played by anyone. I was sure that Annie Mumolo would at least be a factor in the finale of the movie considering the way she’s treated by the other two throughout, but it never happens so her character is just a punching bag which gets tiresome very quickly.
Outside of the less than stellar villains, the movie likes to take random excursions where it has an out of nowhere montage of our characters doing… stuff for some reason. The worst is fairly early on where they get drunk and tear up a grocery store for no apparent reason and it’s the only time I felt that they were being bad moms instead of “Bad Moms”. There isn’t even an explanation as to why they didn’t end up in jail considering the amount of damage they cause, and it goes towards making none of this in the slightest big believable and therefore less impactful, and they have scenes like this throughout the movie.
This movie has a lot going for it, from its fantastic cast, the exaggerated tone, and a few of the set pieces that bring a lot of laughs. Unfortunately, while something like Knocked up blended these elements wonderfully together (watch that movie and be amazed at how little you notice Seth Rogan’s transition from a frat boy loser to a somewhat responsible adult) this drops the ball on giving us a coherent arc from beginning to end and it suffers from that lack of structure; not to mention the exaggerated tone works as a double edged sword by giving them more chances for laughs, but undercuts the dramatic moments the movie REALLY wants to have. It’s probably not worth seeing in theaters (and it might be annoying to Modern MomsTM who the movie is clumsily lampooning) but this is a solid comedy to check out at some point once it hits home release. Also, we need to get Kathryn Hahn more work. Seriously, she’s needs to be the fifth Ghostbuster.
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