Bad Moms (2016)

Party Like a Mother

What is it with everybody wanting to be ‘bad’ nowadays? Well, the past decade (or so) has oddly seen the ushering in of an unusual sub-genre of comedy, where typically known ‘respected citizens’ drop their good-guy acts and go all out cray-cray, throwing their morals and principals out the wazoo. First up, way back in 2003, we had a Bad Santa (Bad Santa 2 coming later this year), then in 2011 a Bad Teacher, followed by 2013’s Bad Grandpa and then some awfully bad Neighbors, who graced our screens in both 2014 and 2016 respectively. Now, we see a trio of rule-breaking mommas jump onto the naughty bandwagon in Bad Moms, the latest female-centric farce from Hangover (2009-13) scribes Jon Lucas and Scott Moore.

Bad Moms follows Amy Mitchell (Mila Kunis) who, from the outset, seems to have her picture-perfect life all figured out. However, this mother of two is fatigued, over stressed and over committed, desperately trying to hold down a taxing career while striving to be an ideal parent for her overachieving school-aged children, Jane (Oona Laurence) and Dylan (Emjay Anthony).

 ... mom's the word
… mom’s the word

Exhausted and on verge of breaking point, Amy one day discovers her immature husband Mike (David Walton) having an ‘affair’ with a foreign dairy milk farmer over the internet. Fed up with her overcooked reality, Amy decides to throw in the apron, joining forces with a couple of other burnt out mommys — laid-back free-spirit Carla (Kathryn Hahn), a single mother of one, and stay-at-home mom Kiki (Kristen Bell), a mother of four (two of whose children are infant twins). On a mission to liberate themselves from those ‘conventional’ parental responsibilities, the threesome embark on a well-deserved self-indulgent freedom binge, which puts them on a collision course with iron-willed PTA president (at William McKinley School) Gwendolyn James (Christina Applegate) and her squad of pseudo perfectionist textbook moms, Vicky (Annie Mumolo) and Stacy (Jada Pinkett Smith), with Amy and her newfound friends striving to redefine what it means to be a modern-day matriarch.

It goes without saying that Bad Moms clearly passes The Bechdel Test (that one’s a no-brainer), but what is impressive is the fact that this film, given its progressive subject matter, was actually written/ directed by a couple of dudes. While the direction itself is fairly stock-standard for a flick of this class, the script — which doesn’t isolate moviegoers who aren’t mothers or female (like myself) — is widely relatable: however, with this in mind, the finished product is somewhat formulaic and not as bellyaching as one would think, despite having moments of mild crass, juvenile rowdiness and satirical larks (then again, I’m not a parent). What did standout though were its honest views on high-pressure family/ married life, which are tackled genuinely, along with gender expectations (on both sides of the coin) when it comes to domesticity, the film also commenting on the strain society puts on youngsters today — Jane, at a early age, already crippled with fear about college applications. The picture also highlights the millennial (late Gen Y) explosion in contemporary workplaces and the stress this causes those from the Baby Boomer and X generations.

Veronica Mars - now solving creases
Veronica Mars – now solving creases

Performance wise, Mila Kunis, Friends with Benefits (2011), is excellent as the overworked Amy, as is Kristen Bell, Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008), who plays the ‘just not cool’ Kiki, both women finding that snug middle-ground, owning their emotional beats whilst hitting all of their punchlines dead-on. Though, the obvious standout is oversexed badass Carla Dunkler played by Kathryn Hahn, We’re the Millers (2013), who, with her amorous antics and spark-plug persona, totally makes the role her mama — you’d swear her act was all improvised, too. A sequence featuring a grocery store rampage really showcases the winning trifecta’s no-bars-hold attitude when it comes to physical comedy, the scene being a real ‘knockout,’ our leading ladies obviously not afraid to look silly just to generate laughs. Elsewhere Christina Applegate, Vacation (2015), relishes the role of supermom Gwendolyn, the Queen Bee with a vicious sting, whereas stand-up-comic Wanda Sykes, Monster-in-Law (2005), pops up for a rather funny bit-part as marriage counselor Dr. Karl. And oh, keep an eye out for a brief cameo from America’s favorite female go-getter, Martha Stewart.

Unfortunately, the lads don’t fare quite as well as the lasses; Jay Hernandez, Suicide Squad (2016), is one-dimensional as the ‘hot’ widowed father Jessie Harkness — he’s the DILF to Kunis’ MILF — whilst Mike Mitchell (Amy’s cheating husband) just comes across as plain idiotic, David Walton, Fired Up! (2009), doing the best he can with the thankless paper-think role.

'I feel like there's something between us ... Oh wait, it's a beer.'
‘I feel like there’s something between us … Oh wait, it’s a beer.’

By no means an apex of feminist cinema, Bad Moms is at least a step in the right direction for Hollywood filmmakers, the movie succeeding in catering for its underappreciated female demographic. Slightly generic as far as adult comedy goes — insomuch as it seems to lack creative gusto — Bad Moms is still a solid distraction from those tedious mommyhood duties, though I doubt it’ll wind up on anyone’s ‘Best Of’ list. And look, as an entry into the ‘bad’ sub-genre, Bad Moms could have been a whole lot worse. But hey, I’d rather spend 100-minutes with these disobedient mothers as opposed to potty training or dipper changing any day of the week!

3 / 5 – Good

Reviewed by S-Littner

Bad Moms is released through Roadshow Entertainment Australia