UK Release Date: 26th August 2016
Runtime: 101 minutes
Director: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
Writer: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
Starring: Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Christina Applegate, Jada Pinkett Smith, Annie Mumolo, David Walton, Jay Hernandez
Synopsis: An exhausted mother decides to give up on the idea of PTA-mandated perfection and embrace a more relaxed idea of motherhood, free of the pressure to be a caricature of the ideal parent.
Funny women are very much a hot topic in Hollywood at the moment. This year, the misogynist-maligned reboot of Ghostbusters fell on its face at the box office, in stark contrast to the smash hit success of Paul Feig’s previous efforts, such as Bridesmaids. Suffering none of those box office blues, though, was Bad Moms, which cruised to $170m worldwide off the back of its relatively modest $20m budget. With fun central characters and an enjoyablu simple premise, it’s a comedy that really flies.
Amy (Mila Kunis) is an over-worked and endlessly stressed mother of two kids, struggling to balance work and life with little help from the children’s lazy father Mike (David Walton). After a particularly tough day, she butts heads with “perfect” PTA mother Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate) and resolves to quit all of the nonsense of struggling to fit in with the other parents. She is joined by similarly put-upon mothers Kiki (Kristen Bell) and Carla (Kathryn Hahn) and they soon resolve to usurp Gwendolyn in order to change the expectations that are placed upon the shoulders of women.
Bad Moms isn’t a good film because of its commitment to feminism. It isn’t a good film because of its laudable work in putting women front and centre. It’s a good film because it’s really, really funny. The premise is simple and provides a fertile environment for the central performers to improvise wildly in order to create a comedy with one of the better hit rates of the year. That is at least until the plot machinations crank into action ahead of the third act and the gags dry up very quickly indeed.
The three lead performers have great chemistry and each give committed performances. Kristen Bell, in particular, is remarkable as a foul-mouthed but sweet woman who is all too quick to submit to her husband’s requests. One scene, in which she plays the part of an uncircumcised penis, certainly kicks her portrayal of Princess Anna in Frozen into the long grass for a while. Bad Moms is an enjoyable symphony of filth, propagated mainly by Bell and Christina Applegate, who swears better than just about everybody in the business. It’s quite something to behold.
Mila Kunis, too, excels in the central role and proves adept at pratfalling. Unfortunately, her character and the positive message of not giving a shit about what people think is undercut slightly by the fact that the story culminates in her achieving almost the exact perfection that she has rallied against. In fact, the entire message that the film strives to convey is ultimately trampled upon by the fact that Bad Moms falls all too easily into comedy cliché.
When Bad Moms works though, it really works. The film is at its best when it allows its narrative to take a back seat in order to spotlight the skills of its central performers and their chemistry with each other. That’s when the film’s comedy is allowed to come to the surface. It’s also well worth staying for the credits, which feature a heartfelt and touching discussion of motherhood that is vastly more entertaining than the usual gag reel. It might even be the best credits sequence since 22 Jump Street.
Pop or Poop?
Bad Moms is a fairly typical Hollywood comedy, from its improvisational style to its entirely foreseeable and sickeningly saccharine ending. Mila Kunis and Kristen Bell shine as comedic performers, delighting in the bawdy humour of what is almost certainly the year’s funniest female-led comedy film.
It’s just a shame that the film feels the need to adhere so closely to formula, particularly in how it runs its final act. All of the performers would have benefited from being let off the leash a little. There was certainly some anarchy missing.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.