You can probably put "Bad" in front of anything and Hollywood would make a movie about it. Seriously, look at all of the R-rated comedies over the last few years about some profession or another that has been destroyed by irresponsibility and hedonistic behavior. Bad Moms is the latest join the club, and it's meant to be shocking that mothers...dear ol' mom who fixed our lunches and kissed or boo-boos, could ever be as shockingly audacious as say, Cameron Diaz in Bad Teacher. Or Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa. Or Jason Bateman in Bad Words. See where I'm going here?
Bad Moms relies on that shock factor, too, otherwise the litany of F-bombs and penis jokes would come off as gratuitous. Instead, they speak directly to the audience this film is intended for: stressed-out working moms who managed to scrounge up two hours of free time to see a movie. They'll instinctively connect with the meager attempts by writer/directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore to explore the myth of the "Tiger Mom", but they'll stick around for The Hangover-style barrage of wild partying, sexual antics, and drug use. Do whippets count as drug use?
The matriarchal "Wolfpack" is led by Amy (Mila Kunis), an overburdened mother of two kids, a busy daughter and a lazy son, the latter emulating his Dad in just about every way. Amy also has a part-time job at one of those places that only exists in movies: a progressive coffee company where everyone is about 20-years-old (except Amy, who is the oldest by far), dresses like they just rolled out of bed, and plays games all day rather than work. The film opens with Amy dropping all of her problems on our shoulders: she has no life/work balance at all. And if she does, it's like 10/90, not a good proportion. It's a lot to take in at first but it feels appropriately messy as a reflection of Amy's actual state of affairs. Shouldn't she be too busy to give us narration at all? Just a thought.
Amy's life is made more miserable by the Alpha Moms, a trio of "mean girls" who run the school like a Gestapo. PTA President Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate, appropriately nasty) is the head Nazi in this outfit, joined at the hip by her two minions (Jada Pinkett Smith and Annie Mumolo), and their sole mission seems to be heaping ridiculous expectations on all of the neighborhood moms. Those who don't fall in line will be publicly humiliated and privately prosecuted, which is a fate that befalls Amy when she refuses to take part in the Bake Sale with a list of unapproved ingredients a mile long. Amy's rebellion and subsequent Jerry Maguire-esque walkout wins her the friendship of Kiki (Kristen Bell), a home schooling mother of four living like a shut-in thanks to her demanding husband; and Carla (Kathryn Hahn), an abrasive single mom who really doesn't give a rat's patooty about mothering her slow-witted son.
As the brains behind The Hangover and its millennialized knock-off 21 & Over, Lucas and Moore really only have one trick up their sleeve. Fortunately for them they are pretty good at it, and the film is best when Kunis, Bell, and Hahn's characters are getting wasted with the other moms, hitting the town for a night of potential hook-ups, and vandalizing the nearest grocery store. In particular the slo-mo party scene is an uproarious sequence with each actress dancing to their hearts content, although it's Bell who seems to be having the most fun, perhaps because Kiki is such a sheltered soul. It's like somebody gave Kimmy Schmidt a rack of kids to put up with. Hahn is great in pretty much everything and she fills the group misfit role well, always speaking her mind no matter how uncomfortable it makes things. A highlight is a rundown of all the mommy subgroups (black lesbian moms, camel toe moms, and many many more) Amy will need to win the PTA election. You can't help but wish the envelope had been pushed a little bit further, both to give Hahn even cruder things to say but because these moms aren't as "bad" as they should be. If you're going to call it Bad Moms then really dig in and screw these ladies up! And no, swear words aren't enough. Kunis isnt't bad but she's given the most generic character to work with. I get it; Amy's the everywoman moms can identify with and will likely envy as she has a fling with a sexy widower (Jay Hernandez), but her first world problems don't resonate as anything other than minor inconveniences. Everything they're going through can be solved by hiring a babysitter or by using the calendar function on their phone.
Unlike the other "Bad" films, Bad Moms is closer to wish fulfillment than anything else. Nobody dreams about being a crusty old mall Santa, but there are plenty of mothers out there who dream of throwing their responsibilities aside for a night of wild sex and parties. Bad Moms will give them plenty to laugh about but it should have been raunchy and reckless enough to make them ashamed of identifying with it so much.
Rating: 3 out of 5