Penned by the writers of “The Hangover” (Jon Lucas and Scott Moore), this was a film I went into with really, really low expectations. But it was better than I expected it to be.
Mila Kunis (which we already know means “Fine” in Navajo) plays Amy, a normal working Mum (albeit clearly living in a hugely affluent neighbourhood) with a no-good husband and two kids. Amy is at the end of her tether, and as parents haven’t we all been there? After one particularly dreadful day she uncharacteristically heads for a bar and forms a firm friendship with hen-pecked wife and Mum Kiki (an excellent Kristen Bell) and the potty-mouthed and kick-ass Carla (Kathryn Hahn). Making a pact to not follow convention they decide to be “Bad Moms” which brings them into direct conflict with Gwendoline (“Anchorman”‘s Christina Applegate), the tyrannical head of the school Parent Teacher Association and her fawning sidekicks Stacy (Jada Pinkett Smith, “Matrix” sequels) and Vicky (Annie Mumulo, “Bridesmaids”). As attacks get personal, Amy is forced into standing against Gwendoline for the PTA chair and a battle royale ensues.
From the film’s publicity, I expected this to be a “3 go mad in Vegas” style of romp, but it didn’t head in that direction. True that there is one very funny and well-cut scene of craziness in a supermarket (“Kids, we’re going to have to find a new supermarket”), but the film has a more thoughtful tone reflecting as it does the stresses on working parents exacerbated by the need to conform to social mores.
It would be dangerous at this point for me, as a man, to appear sexist and misogynist, so I will quote (and credit) my wife here in commenting that the film is like a “Next Generation” movie to 1987’s Diane Keaton vehicle “Baby Boom”. In that film Keaton’s character has to juggle a corporate working life with unexpected child rearing: something still relatively unusual in those days (yes folks, things have changed a LOT for the better in 30 years). “Bad Moms” skims forward to today when being a working parent is almost a given, but the characters in the film view that maybe that swing has gone too far – that there is not enough time for them to treasure and nurture their kids. Here the film does slip into sexist territory in featuring all the struggling “Moms” as predominantly female: the one single Dad (hunk and love interest Jay Hernandez) never seems stressed or out of his depth.
So, there is a good concept in here, but to be honest it is not particularly well executed. Given that it is supposed to be a comedy, the limited laughs supplied are well distributed throughout the film. It’s more of a smile-along than a laugh-along.
The film is also pretty inconsistent in tone, flipping as it does from the leads being “Bad Moms” to being lovey-dovey “aren’t my kids adorable”parents. For a UK audience I would suggest that there is way, WAY too much sickly hugging of kids going on. And – without spoilers – the denouement at the ending is far from satisfying.
On the plus side, it is technically well delivered, and looks like bloody Shakespeare compared to the truly execrable “Dirty Grandpa”. The editing is slick and the music choice and music editing is particularly good. Some of the performances – especially those of Bell and Hahn – are great. And a particular nod to young Oona Laurence as Amy’s daughter who carries her part really nicely.
In terms of the lead, Mila Kunis wouldn’t seem to be a natural choice for a comedy part, although her performance is kookily watchable (that might just be the “fine” influence on me). A low point however is a post-sex scene where Kunis appears to have been watching ABC News rather than doing any sort of strenuous horizontal jogging (not that my wife noticed this as she was MUCH too distracted by who was acting on the other side of the bed). If anyone puts together a top 10 of unconvincing movie sex scenes, this is a strong contender.
Comedies are very personal things. Might this one be right for you? I would suggest that if you are not a parent, you should probably skip it and wait for the TV showing – – many of the situations are those that only parents who’ve been through the more hellish moments of child rearing will relate to! It’s also not for the very prudish. There is a lot of bad language, a bit of nudity and drug references, although it doesn’t quite descend to the same gross-out level comedy of “The Hangover” or a Farrelly brothers film.
A final shout-out to the goofy final credits, done in “When Harry Met Sally” style, where the actresses real mothers talk about whether they were good mum’s or not. (Cue more hugging).
Fad Rating: FFF. (This was originally FFf, but lobbying from the wife has prevailed!)
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