Despite being ditzy, doofy and aggressively off-kilter, I raise my glass to Bad Moms. This pro-mommy propaganda isn’t without traces of truth, nor is focus lost of the monument it erects in the name of our maternal caretakers. No one deserves recognition more than our mothers, who endure the most graphic of hardships just to bring us into this dystopia we call life. They willingly go through Hell just to pop out another tiny person who won’t acknowledge their worth until 17-or-so years of self-obsessed immaturity washes away like an ugly stench. If anyone deserves a drink (or twelve), it’s these thankless superheroes, and that’s what writers/directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore never forget amidst all the drunken crying and public indecency. Mama bear instincts and all.
Mila Kunis stars as Amy, a suburban every-mom who spends most of her days working, driving or crying alone in the solitude of her mini-van. She’s consumed by the same home-life of most parents, and has the same constant worry on every mother’s mind – am I a good Mom? Well, after she catches her husband (played by David Walton) cheating via an online relationship, Amy stops caring about being the perfect mommy, and starts making decisions for herself.
Why cook breakfast for your children (played by Oona Laurence and Emjay Anthony) when they can pour a bowl of cereal themselves? “New Amy” sparks a party-hearty friendship with single-mom Carla (Kathryn Hahn) and repressed stay-at-homer Kiki (Kristen Bell), but also catches the attention of PTA Nazi Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate). As their beef intensifies, Amy decides to run against Gwendolyn at the next PTA election, and that’s when all Hell breaks loose…
Much as you’d expect, a lot of the comedy here is girlishly ridiculous. Pregnant tummies bounce around the dance floor of an all-mommy house party, and supermarkets are destroyed by three raging women who no longer feel the repressive constraints of “acceptable” society. Basically, the film’s leading ladies do a bunch of crazy shit that should get them arrested, but thanks to Hollywood’s warped reality, we get to watch Kathryn Hahn chug a gallon of chocolate milk with vodka and whipped cream in it without any reprocussions.
Some of the material falls desperately flat, like expected scenes of failed post-divorce flirting, but other moments are elevated by the bad-mommies-club atmosphere. There’s a circumcision bit with Kristen Bell in a hooded sweatshirt that goes over gangbusters, along with most of Hahn’s inappropriate behavior.
Casting couldn’t have done a better job assembling each Bad Moms clique, which ends up being the film’s biggest advantage. Kathryn Hahn as the insane slutty mom who hits on dudes with zero subtlety and says whatever crass vulgarity comes to her mind (she’s great)? Awesome. Kristen Bell as the super-mousy, kind-of unhinged goody-goody mom just aching to break out of her innocence funk (she’s double great)? Perfect.
Mila Kunis, meanwhile, is flanked by two splendid supporting anchors who help take the pressure off Amy’s damnation of social imprisonment, and help accentuate Kunis’ more streamlined parental slacker. But more importantly, the three women feel like they belong together, and share a tremendously debaucherous chemistry on-screen – like each personality completes a missing part of the other two. During most comedies, you have as much fun as the characters on screen. Suffice it to say, these gals make that easy.
Then we get to Gwendolyn and her cronies (Stacy, played by Jada Pinkett Smith, Vicky, played by Annie Mumolo). What would a bad-girls comedy be without a rival gang of Stepford wives who shun such disgusting imperfection? Think Mean Girls, but with “mature” adults who should know better – and with less awareness. Applegate is perfectly suited for her stuck-up millionaire routine, yet the writing is a bit too mean-spirited at times, even when establishing the film’s villain. Some of her insults sting in an awkwardly discomforting manner, without sympathetic character-building paid toward’s Amy (who is on the receiving end).
It’s bullying by hatred, without anyone reigning in her deplorable personality. Gwendolyn’s moments on-stage do work, especially during her Bake Sale Police presentation, but a dialed-down intensity would have worked to keep the competition between Amy and Gwendolyn more pettily entertaining, and a lot less spiteful.
For what it is, Bad Moms manages to balances laughs and motherly instincts with more emotionality than expected. You get the pot-smoking adults who blow off responsibility, but also their undying love for the children they happily committed to raising. Cocktail dinners turn into sob sessions about how lucky each mother is to birth such wonderful kids, right before a dress-up montage hits, and we’re back on the town talking about how Carla trolls for cocks.
As the film says, being a mom is impossible in this day and age – but that doesn’t mean you’re bad at it. This is a dirty pat-on-the-back for all those doubting do-gooders out there who pack lunches, attend baseball games and ensure their children receive the attention they deserve. Slight in practice, but hearty when it counts – and with the best damn Martha Stewart cameo ever.
Bad Moms might be slight in practice, but it's rather comical (albeit expected beats), and emotionally fulfilling when it counts.