Bad Moms brings back the writing team behind the 2009 smash hit The Hangover to create another relatable comedy, this time switching up the genders (because that’s how films work now, it seems) and allowing a cast of women to let their hair down and run riot. This film is less successful, however, in the number of laughs it generates, the relatability of its characters and the inventiveness of its anarchism.
Amy (Mila Kunis) has a great husband, overachieving children, a beautiful home and a successful career – unfortunately, she’s also overworked, exhausted and ready to snap. Fed up of her lot, she joins forces with two other stressed-out mothers (Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn) to get away from their daily life and conventional maternal responsibilities. As the girls go wild with their newfound freedom, they set themselves up for the ultimate showdown with PTA queen bee Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate) and her clique of seemingly perfect moms, and see if they can figure out a perfect balance between cutting loose and being a good mother.
Bad Moms is a frustrating film – it looks at motherhood, and applies what I imagine must be some universal truths (as a young single man, I’m a bit far from being a mother), trying to mix them into chaos, and it doesn’t really gel. It is a shame, as it brings together some top talent and then wastes it on a subpar script, essentially casting them as caricatures that do what you would expect them to do.
Kunis is the lead, playing the overworked and most ‘real’ mum (if you will), and she is pleasingly watchable – she helps to ground the film and keep it from being too daft. She gets the biggest arc, but it is very simplistic and feels unearned. (She is unlucky that her kids are such entitled little gits that it’s hard to feel any sympathy for them – in my house, if I kicked up a fuss because my mother hadn’t made breakfast, I’d have been slapped.) Kathryn Hahn is the real highlight, though, bringing an unpredictable energy that renders her the funniest thing in the film by a lot shot. She far overshadows the others – Kristen Bell didn’t make that much of an impression (which is unusual considering her usual screen presence) and Applegate is a non-threatening character as the head of the PTA and obsessive mum extraordinaire. (Talking of the cast, stick around through the credits for a treat.)
Herein lies one of the problems with the film. Gwendolyn is meant to be in charge of the school, seemingly (I’m not familiar with the PTA – they seem to be a committee of parents who fundraise and such, but then she has the power to fire the gym teacher), and everybody defers to her. I guess mothers like this must exist, but I’ve only ever seen them in comedies like this for normal people to rally against. There is some realism, but there she is also a woman who plants drugs in a child’s locker because her mother won’t help at a bake sale – you can’t buy into it.
There are numerous plot holes in the picture – Amy works three days a week, her husband seemingly less, and yet they have enough money for a mansion house and three cars. A relationship counsellor goes from ‘all relationships are saveable’ to ‘get a divorce’ after a minute of clichéd dialogue, and it’s hard to feel anything for this relationship drama anyway because the first moment she gets, Amy is getting off with a one-dimensional widower. The main issue, though, is that the film is based on the idea it is impossible to be a good mother nowadays, and implies reckless drinking, shunning any responsibility and being a bad person is the antidote to that – it’s hardly the message you want to be pushing, even for mothers who would take being in a car accident to the drudgery of the same routine.
Bad Moms is an average film that doesn’t quite deliver the laughs or the heart it goes for, and its likeable cast go a long way in making up for the movie’s flaws. Possibly mothers will take more from it than I did, but on the whole, it is very run-of-the-mill and could’ve been something special had it really been developed.
Director: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
Cast: Mila Kunis (Amy), Kathryn Hahn (Carla), Kristen Bell (Kiki), Christina Applegate (Gwendolyn), Jada Pinkett Smith (Stacy), Annie Mumolo (Vicky)
Running Time: 100 Mins