Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Movie Review: Bad Moms

Bad Moms
Directed by: Jon Lucas & Scott Moore.
Written by: Jon Lucas & Scott Moore.
Starring: Mila Kunis (Amy Mitchell), Kristen Bell (Kiki), Kathryn Hahn (Carla Dunkler), Christina Applegate (Gwendolyn James), Jada Pinkett Smith (Stacy), Annie Mumolo (Vicky), Jay Hernandez (Jessie Harkness), Lilly Singh (Cathy), Oona Laurence (Jane Mitchell), Emjay Anthony (Dylan Mitchell), Wendell Pierce (Principal Daryl Burr), Wanda Sykes (Dr. Elizabeth Karl).
There are so few movies made for moms, that it’s a shame that Bad Moms isn’t a better movie than it is. There probably isn’t a mother out there right now, who won’t recognize a lot about themselves waiting this comedy that tries, with varying success, to mix the raunchy and the sweet in terms of humor, and then add in some more serious observations along the way. When the film became a surprise hit this summer, I’m sure a large part of the audience was women out on girl’s night – leaving their husbands at home with the kids, for a night out with their friends. And if they enjoyed the movie, great. But for me, the film kind of lurches around awkwardly, never quite finding its footing. There are appealing moments and performances, yet the film never really gels in a meaningful way.
The film focuses on Amy (Mila Kunis) – a woman who got pregnant at 20, and is now in her early 30s, still married to the same lovable doofus (who isn’t so lovable anymore), with two kids she adores, a career working for a hipster coffee company where she’s the only one doing actual work, and trying to balance all her kids extra-circular activities, and the PTA – which is presided over by rich, alpha-bitch Christina Applegate, who calls last minute, three hour emergency meetings to discuss the bake sale. One day, everything goes wrong for Amy, who decides she has had enough – she’s going to chuck her responsibilities and stop trying to be a perfect mom, and instead by a bad mom. In this, she is aided by Carla (Kathryn Hahn) – a single mom, who is undeniably bad (she’s drunk most of the time, and doesn’t even seem to like her kid), and sweet, quiet nerdy Kiki (Kristen Bell) – a stay at home mom of four kids, who has a strangely controlling husband. For much of the rest of the movie, these three women partying, drink and plan Amy’s run for PTA president against Applegate – all the while seemingly ignoring their kids, who don’t often factor into their plans.
If there’s a reason to watch the film, it’s to see Kunis, Bell and Hahn play off each other – which they do wonderfully well. Kunis and Bell worked together before in Forgetting Sarah Marshall – but both are given better roles this time around (Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a better film overall, but in it, Kunis had to play female perfection personified – basically Gone Girl’s “Cool Girl” in the flesh, and Kristen Bell had to play the heartless bitch – at least until late in the film when she finally got to say why she left Jason Segel). Here, Kunis gets to play the harried every woman – who doesn’t even realize how miserable she is until she is forced to recognize it. Bell gets to play a quieter, more sweetly strange character than I’ve ever seen her do before. And Hahn, well, she’s plays the Kathryn Hahn role to perfection – which is why you hired Kathryn Hahn.
I don’t quite think the film works when it tries to lay on some of the more serious stuff – particularly because it backs away from it too often. The story of a marriage which has simply run its course can be a sad one, but the filmmakers don’t really do much with Amy’s marriage. Bell’s marriage is even more disturbing, and honestly the whole thing leaves a little bit of a bad taste in my mouth thinking about it. It also doesn’t help that the film tries too hard to cram in too much plot – the whole business with the PTA election, and what Applegate does to try and win, not to mention a new love interest for Kunis (played by Jay Hernandez, as whatever the male equivalent to the Gone Girl’s Cool Girl is) just falls flat.
I cannot help but wonder if the fault lies in the fact that the film was written and directed by two men – Jon Lucas and Scott Moore. It isn’t that the film is bad per se, just that it feels very sitcom-y, and lacking in any real insight. There are moments that work, but not enough to really make the film worth it. I’m glad a film like Bad Moms exists – and that it became a success. Now, it’s time to make a version of this film that is, you know, good.

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