Editor’s Note: Bad Moms opens in wide theatrical release today, July 29, 2016.
Someone, somewhere – a heretofore, unnamed, faceless studio executive – thought it was a good, possibly even a great, idea to give the writing duo behind The Hangover trilogy (a favorite among dude-bros everywhere), Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, the greenlight to write and produce a female-oriented comedy (“mom-com”), Bad Moms. It wasn’t. Centered on white, privileged, suburban women and their Sisyphean struggles to keep it “real” individually and collectively, Bad Moms falls squarely in the not-quite-outrageous, ultra-safe category. On the surface, Bad Moms lets its central trio tamely fly their freak flag (the “R” rating has everything to do with the tiresome overuse of F-bombs and little to do with actual boundary-pushing or breaking behavior), but deep down, it’s an edge- and insight-free ode to the wonders of women with children bonding together over the slings and arrows of outrageous bourgeois fortune and emerging better people and more (or less) importantly, better mothers to their self-indulgent, over-indulged children, by the end of Bad Moms’ overstretched, overlong running time.
On the surface, Bad Moms lets its central trio tamely fly their freak flag, but deep down, it’s an edge- and insight-free ode to the wonders of women with children bonding together over the slings and arrows of outrageous bourgeois fortune…
Lucas and Moore didn’t just write Bad Moms. They directed Bad Moms too. From the get-go, they take great pains to explain the believability-stretching combo of Amy Mitchell’s (Mila Kunis) relative youth (she’s all of 32) and her middle-aged preoccupations and obsessions. She presumably has everything the modern American woman could possibly want: Marriage, kids, and a profession. Not all is sunny in Amy’s part of the world (i.e., Chicago), however. While her decade-plus marriage to Mike (David Walton) implodes (blame boredom), her two co-dependent kids, Jane (Oona Laurence) and Dylan (Emjay Anthony), face problems of their own. Jane suffers from Type AAA Syndrome. She’s an overachiever with big dreams (Ivy League, soccer) and debilitating anxiety issues. In marked contrast, Dylan doesn’t have a care in the world. He’s the classic slacker-in-training, helped in no small measure by Amy’s overcompensating behavior (she builds him a papier-mâché Nixon head for a history project).
Amy’s work life isn’t any better. She’s underappreciated and underpaid by her self-entitled hipster boss, Dale Kipler (Clark Duke). She runs sales for Dale’s artisanal coffee company, but she’s also a thirty something and thus, unworthy of Dale’s unironic respect or appreciation. But when Amy tries to do too much at the same time (school, work, afterschool activities), she has a meltdown. She’s no woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown, though. Just as all hope seems lost, two other moms enter Amy’s life, Carla (Kathryn Hahn) and Kiki (Kristen Bell). Carla is the real bad mother. She drinks too much, comes on to other fathers (more as provocation than anything else), curses too much, and generally behaves badly. A conservative stay-at-home mom with several children, Kiki desperately needs a night or four out on the town (or what passes for a night on the town in Bad Moms).
The crude, rude, vulgar jokes don’t come as fast or furiously as they did during the Hangover trilogy (thankfully, some might argue), but they’re spaced out in regular increments to periodically remind moviegoers of the comedic nature of the Bad Moms enterprise.
Lucas and Moore throw a few obstacles in Amy’s path as she begins the inevitable journey toward personal (re) fulfillment, including Mike, a horrible, no-good husband and father (no, not really, he’s just another well-meaning clueless dolt), a shaky employment situation (Amy walks away, essentially quitting, until she doesn’t), and Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate), a mean (rich) girl who grew up to become head of the local PTA, and Amy’s natural enemy/antagonist. Gwendolyn represents the strict, authoritarian, no-fun attitude Amy must overcome figuratively and literally before she can evolve into a more balanced version of herself. It doesn’t hurt that a widowed dad, Jessie Harkness (Jay Hernandez), enters the frame wearing a tight t-shirt (no dad bod for him), giving Amy the chance to get her groove back. Lucas and Moore stage a few slapstick-heavy scenes involving the central trio and at least one involving Amy and Jessie, but it’s generally of the fully clothed, “safe for work” kind. The crude, rude, vulgar jokes don’t come as fast or furiously as they did during the Hangover trilogy (thankfully, some might argue), but they’re spaced out in regular increments to periodically remind moviegoers of the comedic nature of the Bad Moms enterprise. If only Bad Moms had something, anything to say about motherhood and relationships besides the trite, banal life lessons on hand, but that would have been a different film entirely (i.e., a much better one).
On the surface, Bad Moms lets its central trio tamely fly their freak flag, but deep down, it falls squarely in the not-quite-outrageous, ultra-safe category as an insight-free ode to the wonders of women with children bonding together.