Film Review: Bad Moms

by Carrie Kahn on July 29, 2016

The moms may be Bad, but their film has its moments

Exhausted and overextended moms Amy (Mila Kunis, l.), Kiki (Kristen Bell), and Carla (Kathryn Hahn) decide to cut loose.

A few weeks ago, we learned that Mike and Dave need wedding dates, and now today, in Bad Moms, we find that some stressed out moms need to cut loose. In the summer’s second booze-soaked, raunchy-but-sweet comedy to open this month, Josh Lucas and Scott Moore, the co-writers of the Hangover trilogy, also pick up the director’s reins to bring us this similarly over-the-top, often very funny film that has a lot of predictable heart under its R-rated laughs.

Here Lucas and Moore turn their attention from the bacchanalian excesses of the Las Vegas bachelor party scene to the overworked, overextended, and over exhausted moms of suburban Chicago. Amy (Mila Kunis), a young working mom of pre-teens whose marriage is on the rocks, Carla (Kathryn Hahn), a hard-drinking divorced mom of a high schooler, and Kiki (Kristen Bell), a stay-at-home mom of four (including infant twins), bond when they become fed up with the unrealistic expectations of perfection thrust upon them by PTA, work, and home demands. As an example of the pressures protagonist Amy is facing, in one very funny scene, the 32-year-old Amy is asked by her 20-something boss at a start up coffee company if she is having a “senior moment” when she misses a meeting.

Frustrated with small and large injustices like these, the three mom friends decide to rebel, choosing to become “bad moms” who don’t prepare organic lunches, make their kids’ school projects, or volunteer for the bake sale. This flouting of suburban norms earns the trio the wrath of PTA President Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate) and her coterie of rigid, disapproving moms.

Icy mom Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate, l.) and her sidekicks Stacy (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Vicky (Annie Mumolo) enforce strict bake sale rules.

The idea is a relevant one for sure in today’s world of overscheduled parents and kids, and one that is definitely ripe for a take down. Initially, though, the film seems unsure how to translate the concept beyond tired gender stereotypes (“Moms don’t quit; quitting is for dads,” one character says) and a lot of blatant “Being a mom today is impossible!” exposition. But the film eventually finds its groove, saved, in a large part, by its strong leads, sharp writing, and some fun montages (a drunken grocery shopping trip set to Icona Pop’s “Love it” can’t help but make you smile).

Of the leads, Kathryn Hahn is the absolute stand out. Carla gets all the best lines, and Hahn, with her deadpan delivery, consistently knocks them out of the park and elicits the biggest laughs. She’s a natural comedienne, which has the unfortunate effect of making Mila Kunis, as the more straight-laced Amy, seem bland by comparison, even though Kunis proves herself deft at physical comedy here. Kristen Bell is game as the more meek Kiki, who finally comes into her own by film’s end (a scene involving her ever-present pink hoodie generates one of the best jokes of the movie), and Christina Applegate is the type of hiss-worthy icy villain everyone loves, even as the audience comes to realize there’s more to her than meets the eye.

Mom Amy (Mila Kunis, center) tries to feed kids Jane (Oona Laurence) and Dylan (Emjay Anthony) a healthy meal.

A few scenes feel recycled from last winter’s Sisters, including an exact Game of Thrones joke and a similar adults-gone-wild party scene, replete with an unnecessary cameo that probably seemed funnier on paper. Other moments feel fresh, though, and a few of the non-comic scenes are both well scripted and well played. A post-marriage counseling scene between Amy and her husband Mike (David Walton), for example, manages to set aside laughs to touch on some hard truths about marrying young, raising kids, and growing apart.

In the end, then, the film has both enough laugh-out-loud lines (especially those uttered by Hahn) and smart character interplay to recommend it. Underneath some of its more clichéd tropes, Lucas and Moore’s picture does deliver a smart and necessary message about not being too hard on ourselves and raising kind, considerate, stress-free kids (at the screening I attended, which happened to be filled with a large contingent of moms, a scene in which Amy tells her 10-year-old son Dylan she doesn’t want him to turn into an entitled hipster with an ironic mustache got a huge round of applause). No mom is ever “perfect,” the film tells us, and that’s okay. Just because moms might not have time to make gluten-free, vegan cupcakes for the school bake sale doesn’t make them “bad moms” or failures. That’s a positive message worth reinforcing, and the film has fun doing so.

And be sure to stay through the credits to watch the lead actresses chat with their real life moms about their own motherhood experiences. When you see some of these conversations, you’ll know where these funny women got their senses of humor.

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Bad Moms opens today at Bay Area theaters.

Carrie Kahn

Moving from the arthouse to the multiplex with grace, ease, and only the occasional eye roll.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Marie M. July 29, 2016 at 5:28 pm

what a lovely review!

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julie August 4, 2016 at 12:49 pm

great analysis. Now I don’t have to see the movie.
“Born to be Blue” My era, but a downer.
anyway greetings.

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