Based purely on the title, it would be easy to assume that ‘Bad Moms’ is a lazily conceived comedy about some mothers getting up to no good with swears and possibly drinking. Well, those assumptions are entirely correct. The surprise is that it’s actually quite funny at it.
True, the plot plays like an afterthought and there are approximately zero surprises in store for audiences (beyond the fact that the movie has actual laughs). But hey! The thing about dumb-dumb R-rated comedies is that they don’t have to be art. They just have to be funny and, ideally, well-meaning (though that last part isn’t always necessary). In the grand scheme of the movies that have ripped off their titles from ‘Bad Santa’, this one falls in the upper echelon, somewhere below ‘Bad Grandpa’ but probably above ‘Bad Teacher’. In 50 years when some lunatic decides to screen a retrospective of these movies for no particular reason, ‘Bad Moms’ will qualify as a pleasant surprise.
Mila Kunis stars as Amy, one of those exhausted supermoms that you hear about on the news or see dazed in the supermarket with a thousand-yard stare. She got married and pregnant young, so missed her 20s in favour of jumping headfirst into suburban pleasures and raising two happy kiddies (Oona Laurence and Emjay Anthony). She’s perpetually late for everything, overworked by her boss (Clark Duke), unhappy with her lazy husband (David Walton), and terrified of the egotistical PTA head (Christina Applegate, always a pleasure). When she discovers that her husband is having an online affair, Amy snaps. She drops all the supermom antics and starts getting drunk with the only nearby mother more lost than she is (Kristen Bell) and a wild party animal single mom thrilled to have new friends (Kathryn Hahn). From there, it’s time to get up to all sorts of nastiness and immaturity, with the understanding that eventually lessons will be learned and everyone will emerge from their hangover happy.
On a storytelling level, the movie is as basic as it gets. You’d better believe that all of the characters’ problems are solved by the end through the power of friendship (possibly even between those who seemed like they could never be friends, but no promises). Co-writers/directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (screenwriters of ‘The Hangover’ trilogy, ‘The Change-Up’ and more) have been down the mainstream comedy road many times before. They know what they’re doing and they don’t mess with conventional formulas because that’s not how you get a movie called ‘Bad Moms’ made. Thankfully, they’re just fine as joke writers and know how to cast a movie then let their actors take over. The laughs pile up so quickly that you might even forget how dull the story is between the giggles. I suppose that’s the point.
Mila Kunis once again proves that she’s far more talented than her easy and obvious roles often suggest. She digs into the filth she’s provided and does it with the grace and charm of the movie star that she probably should be. The same can be said of Kristen Bell, an actress who rarely gets much to play beyond beautiful. Watching her explode from a tightly wound ball into a sloppy mess is a genuine treat. Yet the movie is stolen by Kathryn Hahn. She’s spent a career stealing scenes in small roles and finally gets some decent screen time here as the required party animal character in these sorts of comedies (the Belushi role, if you will). Armed with a lunatic energy and a character whose charm is a total lack of filter, Hahn cuts loose and is worth the price of admission alone. Lucas and Moore are also wise enough to stack their deck and fill out even the smallest of roles with recognizable faces and talent. It’s clear there was some improvising involved and everyone gets a chance to steal away at least one laugh, even if Hahn gobbles up most of them.
‘Bad Moms’ will never win any awards, unless there’s specifically an awards ceremony held for mom comedies released in the summer of 2016, in which case it’ll win by a landslide. It likely won’t even be a giant hit, more of a medium one with a longer life playing on television screens in various formats. However, the movie doesn’t pretend to be anything more than a laugh delivery system and it accomplishes that modest goal just fine. If you want to see some funny ladies tear up the screen for 90 minutes without a single ghost in sight, you could do far worse than this. Hopefully it does well, but not well enough for a ‘Bad Moms 2’. That would be pushing it.