From the guys who brought us the Hangover franchise comes the female metaphorical balls-to-the-walls comedy Bad Moms. Set in an overblown world where the Parent-Teacher Association somehow has command over an entire school, curriculum included, and where marital sexism still somehow exists in its 1950s form, Bad Moms still manages to charm the pants off of its audience. Regardless of the fact that writer-directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore have clearly written from a place of inexperience, their actresses bring plenty of fun, hilarity, and reality to the film, making it worth all of its sometimes outdated motherly stereotypes.
With a tagline that tells audiences to “party like a mother”, it is clear as to why the movie doesn’t inspire much initial confidence. This is one of those films that grows on you in a splendid way, though. Lucas and Moore have something meaningful to say beyond the idea that moms can be cool, too, and do so in small, sweet, and unlikely humorous ways.
The film stars Mila Kunis as Amy, an exhausted woman trying to be the best mother possible while holding up a competitive job and dealing with a less-than-supportive husband. Her real issue, though, stems from the super moms running the PTA, headed by a ruthless Christina Applegate. Also including Jada Pinkett-Smith, these women are the wealthy housewives who have little else to do than meddle in their kids’ lives and judge other mothers who don’t look like they have it all figured out. When Amy defies their conformist motherly code, she and her children come directly under fire. Amy enlists the help of two other mothers to help her take Applegate and her cronies down – one a timid and oppressed housewife in need of Amy’s courage (Kristen Bell) and the other a cursing, partying single mother constantly looking for a fight (Kathryn Hahn).
The story perpetuates a lot of gender and marital stereotypes that are difficult to look past at times. At one point, Bell’s movie husband, after being told that the kids are being watched by the sitter, offensively and in complete seriousness replies to Bell, “that’s your job.” Aside from this obvious case, every other father in the film is a deadbeat, all except one who is a single dad and is reserved as Kunis’s love interest (Jay Hernandez). It is understandable as to why the film would only feature five men in total on-screen (two of which are the Principal and soccer coach) in order to focus the story on the mothers; however, when an entire Parent-Teacher Association is made up of mothers only, it only points a heavy finger at stereotypical manifestations of parental roles and responsibilities.
Putting aside the film’s minor setbacks in gender politics, the ultimate point is to celebrate mothers in a fun, outlandish and comedic way, and Bad Mom gets that completely right. Kunis, Bell, Hahn, and Applegate all shine through their respective comedic abilities. Although delegated to the protagonist straight-woman character, Kunis still delivers many of the laughs and excitement once she lets loose and surrenders to the bad mom persona. Bell and Applegate are given more to work with in the script, with Bell playing a tragically timid and surprisingly hysterical character (helped by Bell’s pinpoint comedic timing) and Applegate doing the entitled, smug, super-bitch role total justice. The real standout here is Hahn, whose absurd wildcard role is one of the best I have ever seen. Arguably being one of the greatest actresses working in comedy, it continues to be a mystery as to why she isn’t headlining her own films instead of taking on this same kind of character (seeing her sex up John C. Reilly in Step Brothers immediately comes to mind).
Lucas and Moore’s signature influence is apparent throughout the film. The actresses, Hahn in particular, deliver a ticker tape of hilarious shock value comedy – one such scene involves a deeply detailed tutorial on how to approach an uncircumcised penis, using Bell and her hoodie as reluctant participants in the presentation. Supplementing the daring and assertive comedy are its sonic and visual companions. The soundtrack features a compilation of every popular radio song within the past few years – exactly the type of music mothers would be exposed to – paired with slow-motion wild partying and grocery store bad behavior. Lucas and Moore essentially translate the wild and fun antics of their Hangover success to a female-centric comedy, and it totally works.
Verdict 3 out of 5
For the most part, the plot of Bad Moms doesn’t actually exist in the realm of possibility, or at least within our contemporary world. A lot of the ideas are outdated and exaggerated, but Lucas and Moore do manage to pull a lot of truths and exceptional comedy out of their ridiculous plot. In the end, audiences will appreciate the film’s lovingly heartfelt message and its hysterical tribute to the women who raise us.