Review: Bad Moms
PLOT: Three young mothers (Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn and Kristen Bell) rebel against the expectations of a generation of helicopter parents and embrace a more chaotic, laissez-faire style of motherhood.
REVIEW: BAD MOMS was a very pleasant mid-summer surprise. In a season full of half-assed comedies, it’s nice to see one break away from the pack and deliver some legitimate belly laughs. While I was wary of another movie carrying a “BAD” title (as in BAD SANTA & BAD TEACHER), this turned out to be a nifty little sleeper that should rake in the dough as the back-to-school season kicks into high gear and parents need a break from all the chaos.
Written and directed by THE HANGOVER scribes, Jon Lucas & Scott Moore, this tries to do for suburban moms what any number of films have done for suburban dads (they’re usually the ones getting in trouble). While some of the bigger gags are hit and miss, the three leads are ideally cast. While she cut her teeth in small-screen comedy (‘That 70s Show’) and is known to a generation as the voice of Meg Griffin on ‘Family Guy’, in her big-screen outings Kunis is often used as window-dressing and not really given the chance to cut loose. Even in something like TED, she’s had the boring “girlfriend” part that traded on her good looks. Here, she’s clearly having the time of her life as a buttoned-up mom who goes wild after discovering her child-like husband is having an “online affair”. Kunis is the perfect choice for a movie like this as, despite being a tad too young to conceivably have two kids past ten-years-old (she’s supposed to have gotten pregnant at twenty).
It helps that Kunis is able to convey a lot of warmth towards the kids and her other co-stars, and her range keeps a romantic subplot with a hunky widower (Jay Hernandez) from feeling tacked-on. Kathryn Hahn and Kristen Bell have the zanier parts, with Hahn really coming into her own with the same kind of off-the-wall, aggressively funny, occasionally gross-out performance that put Melissa McCarthy on the map with BRIDESMAIDS. Likewise, Kristen Bell, who could have conceivably also played the Kunis part, has a ball with what you could call the “Ed Helms” part. Most of the time she puts on the “deer in the headlights” looks but occasionally she breaks out into hyper-aggressive mode, something which suits Bell, who can certainly ace a pratfall. The only ick factor comes from her on-screen husband, who’s such a lout it’s almost disturbing as he seems borderline abusive (although his role is played for laughs). A bit where Hahn describes how to handle an uncircumcised penis using Bell and her hoodie is priceless and the two play off each other particularly well.
While her part is smaller, Christina Applegate once again proves that she’s one of our top comedic actresses, as the nasty PTA mom who’s a helicopter parent nightmare come to life. Acing the ice-cold, “I’m judging you by not judging you” look, Applegate makes for a memorable villain, with Jade Pinkett-Smith and Annie Mumolo as her cohorts. She also gets one of the movie’s biggest laughs during the end credits. Here, the filmmakers do something fun and bring in all the actresses’s real-life moms to weigh-in on their upbringing, and Applegate hilariously recalls her mom taking her to a matinee of CRUISING with Al Pacino (the movie where he goes undercover into the world of S&M), to which her mom can only reply with a shrug, “Al Pacino!”
Although it never quite gets to the level of a Judd Apatow or Paul Feig comedy – where it’s able to skillfully sprinkle in some real heart – BAD MOMS comes much closer than you’d think based on the (pretty lame) previews. A perfect cast, an absence of gross-out humor and some solid observations about moms from the writer/directors makes BAD MOM S a cut above the rest of the summer comedies and well worth checking-out.