By: Hawk Ripjaw –
I’ve never been a mom, and I probably never will be. But I love and respect my mom and all she puts up with and does for me. I get along with moms, too. Moms in their early forties? Swipe right. Do you take your mom for granted? Bad Moms seems to think so.
Amy (Mila Kunis) does a remarkable job of juggling her day job at a hipster coffee startup company, getting her kids to and from school and extra-curricular activities, attending PTA meetings headed by the excessively cruel Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate), and babysitting her overwhelmingly stupid, childish husband Mike (David Walton). Everyone has their breaking point, and when Amy hits hers, she decides to go rogue and begin partying with socially-inept Kiki (Kristen Bell) and the crass, invasive cougar Carla (Kathryn Hahn), ditching her duties and putting her on Gwendolyn’s bad side.
In a male-dominated industry, it’s nice to get some films that change it up. Through and through, Bad Moms is a total female-empowerment comedy and a love letter to all moms. Kathryn Hahn and Kristen Bell are written in very broad, basic strokes, but they deliver great performances anyway, with Kiki’s lack of filter for proper social interaction and Hahn’s inability to open her mouth without saying something foul.
Comedies that have characters improvise multiple riffs on one subject can bring the scene to a screeching halt. Realizing this, the filmmakers edited the film to cut between lines so it feels more like a montage of jokes rather than three characters taking turns saying something funny, which really tightens up the pacing of those scenes. The heavily-advertised supermarket scene is the funniest thing in the movie, thanks to a very effective use of slow motion and editing.
Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn are both great actresses, and they each have their own shtick here with Bell being the awkward and weird outcast and Hahn being the loudmouthed profanity machine, but neither gets much to do beyond that. Kunis, for her part, does little more than narrate the movie and serve as a catalyst for the other two. The first ten minutes is all tell and almost no show, as Amy narrates her entire life with a whimsical soundtrack that you could have told me was from Cheaper by the Dozen and I’d believe you. They aren’t the only characters relegated to cliché status: Of the villains, the two cartoonishly evil moms drag along one more clueless, bumbling friend. The daughter is an overachieving neurotic, the school principal is shown to be a closet stoner after confiscating some weed and suspending a student for it, and Amy’s husband is so far over the top as a buffoon, he feels like he got pulled out of another movie entirely. The disparate characters and personalities are more ideas dropped into the film than they are fully-formed and developed characters, and hardly anyone has an actual arc.
Bad Moms commits the fatal mistake of attempting to be a raunchy comedy and a sweet family film at the same time. It’s certainly doable to blend comedy and drama, as most of the Judd Apatow stable has shown, but it pushes too hard in either direction and ends up a bit sour. In one scene you have Carla using Kiki and her hoodie as a means of illustrating how to handle an uncircumcised penis, and not long after there’s a scene with characters in tears. By coming on too strongly with each and with little sense of how to pace the tonal changes, the movie ends up feeling unbalanced.
Crack open a completely subjective fourth beer for the ending to Bad Moms, which makes most of the rest of the movie moderately pointless but magically resolving everything in a way that would usually be relegated to a children’s movie. It doesn’t need to be spoiled, but you’ll see the ending coming a mile away and no matter how much you don’t want the movie to go there, it goes there.
Bad Moms is a bizarre Frankenstein’s Monster of tones and styles and a fantastic cast with a script that doesn’t appear to be able to utilize them beyond a stream of profanity and dick jokes, and assuming incorrectly that the word “fuck” is inherently funny on its own. It does deserve credit for its love letter to the mothers of the world and for featuring three strong (albeit flatly-written) females as its main characters—in a script written by two males, no less—but while its intentions are good, the movie never pulls together as anything terribly interesting or engaging.
Bad Moms (2016) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time someone says “dick.”
Take a Drink: every time a character says or does something that applies to their stereotype.
Do a Shot: whenever a male character is portrayed as an idiot.
Do a Shot: for every use of a licensed song.
Take a Drink: whenever a character takes a drink.