Finally, a bawdy comedy for women, breaking that final glass ceiling and proving that arrested development and irresponsible self-indulgence isn’t just for men anymore, “Bad Moms” is slow to find its footing but eventually settles into a surprisingly familiar comic groove.
Harassed mum Amy (Mila Kunis) is at her wits’ end, trying to have it all; being the perfect wife, the perfect mother and have a career. When the domineering head of the PTA, Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate) goes too far in enforcing her vision of the forthcoming bake sale, Amy quits and heads off to live the life she wants to rather than the one expected of her.
Riffing on a sequence immortalised in “The Simpsons” episode “Homer Alone”, the film opens by leaning hard into the ‘motherhood as martyrdom’ schtick and comes pretty close to defaulting to ‘Mum Blogging: The Movie’ which is probably in no small part due to the fact this comedy about women, ostensibly for women, is written and directed by men. Therefore, Amy’s own version of ‘Rancho Relaxo’ becomes a descent into irresponsibility, drink, drugs and debauchery because what women really want is their own “Hangover”, right? From casting to execution, there’s an inescapable feeling of the male gaze being firmly in control. Literally every character is a stereotype from the neglectful husband and ungrateful kids, to the shiftless and ignorant millennials, it’s only through the lead cast that the whole thing sparks into life.
Mila Kunis definitely has the comic chops to pull off this kind of zany comedy but she’s never allowed to look anything less than stunning even when she’s meant to be the very epitome of the scraggy exhausted mum. Styling aside, she delivers a likeable lead performance and has great support from Kirsten Bell as a timid stay-at-home mum and Kathryn Hahn as the exact opposite. After flirting with edginess, the film cops out and goes instead for a lazy re-tread of a high school popularity movie but it gets away with it thanks to Applegate giving a deliciously stand out bitchy performance, an achievement all the more impressive given she’s usually standing beside Jada Pinkett Smith so, you know, praise from Caesar.
In the end, it gets just enough right to be a fun movie but there’s no escaping the fact that it wastes the talents at its disposal by forcing them to embrace cliché. If it can find a more authentic voice for the forthcoming sequel, this is a slight misfire which could be bang on target next time.