Movie Review: ‘BAD MOMS’ – a comical break from motherhood
Jared McMillan // Film Critic
Many R-rated comedies have come down the pike over the past several years, but hardly any of them have an all-female cast. Challenge: Name one other female-centric, R-rated comedy from the past 10 years, besides BRIDESMAIDS. NO GOOGLE! You would probably have to go to HOW TO BE SINGLE or an indie film like BACHELORETTE. Most female-driven comedies are softer in nature to bring in as much of a demographic as possible, or are partnered with male co-leads to allow for a date to happen, or for any other prefaced bias that the industry has to get women in the seats.
Say no more, because a new good-time flick has come in the form of BAD MOMS.
Before getting to the actual movie, it’s important to note that the screening and promotion had everything painted in the form of a “girls’ night out”. There was a selfie station, giveaways, and drink tickets for a hang out after the movie. The mood was already set for a good time! It put a lot of pressure on a movie that couldn’t really advertise its jokes. And, while there are glaring flaws, it is absolutely hilarious.
The movie opens on a montage of busy mom Amy (Mila Kunis), complete with voiceover to explain what is already happening on screen (this is not off to a good start). Basically, she has to do everything, which she is tired of doing, but sticks to it because it’s routine. Everything starts to come to a head when she catches her husband (David Walton) in a Skype affair. Her job, which she did too much of before, has no control; she now has to add “soccer mom” to her collection of roles; manage a divorce, and deal with the social pressures of motherhood.
This pressure is displayed in the form of Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate), who is president of the school’s PTA, and controls everything that goes on to the point that the other moms worry about her spreading vindictive gossip. Well, Amy has enough of Gwendolyn’s ways and quits the PTA. She heads to a bar where she meets single mom Carla (Kathryn Hahn), who has gained the reputation of being a harlot. As they drink in solidarity, they are interrupted by another mom, Kiki (Kristen Bell), who already has four kids and no life. These three form a pact to not let motherhood control them anymore, to be “bad moms.”
It is the chemistry of these three women that lifts the movie above its problems. Without giving away any jokes/gags, they have a clear go-for-broke attitude with their characters and it is immediately receptive. What makes the comedy so genuine is that it doesn’t really change their character traits: Amy is trying to find a balance, which works and doesn’t work; Kiki is trying to regain an independence she lost by being a housewife, and her reactions to new experiences/settings lineup with her prim-and-proper motif; and Carla is unabashedly herself, just living life to its fullest, and stealing the movie in the process.
The problem lies in the writing/directing combo of Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, famous for writing THE HANGOVER trilogy. While they have a great knack for filming comedy set pieces, and letting the actors go with their guts, this movie would have been better bringing a woman into the process. It’s not that they don’t mean well, but, as men, we only have so much input on being a mother, and therefore the problems of motherhood are translated through the male gaze. And while we can recognize how tough it is to be a mother in today’s society, we cannot know the actual mental and emotional toll.
This is all to say that Lucas and Moore’s dialogue gets very repetitive because it can’t really dig into that emotional payoff; it’s constantly stating the same thing. So their story is merely a battle of moms needing a break versus moms wanting to break them, touching here and there on a better allegory of moms against societal pressures to be perfect. Because our writers can’t really get to that connection, the audience is left with a lot of grandstanding saying “It’s tough to be a mom! We aren’t perfect, we deserve a break!”
BAD MOMS isn’t a movie about moms having an attitude and flipping off everyone because they don’t care. The fact is that Amy does care, too much, and is trying to find a balance to have some personal time. Its title is meant to reflect that, in today’s day and age, everybody is constantly trying to pass judgment or criticize through social media or actual media, and any time not spent devoted to your children brands you as a bad mom. The humor is in the fact Amy and Kiki are influenced by Carla, and just unleash years of repressed emotion in outstanding fashion.
So, leave the kids at home, and go see BAD MOMS. It’s about time you had a break.
BAD MOMS is in theatres everywhere this weekend.