Bad Moms (2016) – Movie Review
Directed by: Jon Lucas & Scott Moore
Written by: Jon Lucas & Scott Moore
Starring: Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Christina Applegate & Jada Pinkett Smith
Music: Christopher Lennertz
Release Date: August 24th 2016
It took a long time but Hollywood in 2011 finally understood that not only could female-ensemble comedies be really funny, but they could also be very profitable. The release of Paul Feig’s ‘Bridesmaids‘ in 2011 (which actually had the tag-line “Chick Flicks Don’t Have To Suck!) not only showed that modestly budgeted female-driven raunchy-comedies could not only make a good profit for studios but that they could also pick up accolades including Academy Award nominations (for its screenplay and Melissa McCarthy’s performance).
Moves are being made in the industry to make more of these films, but with Hollywood being a massive, complex machine, progress is slow. So coming 5 years after ‘Bridesmaids‘ we have what feels like the first true spiritual successor to it; ‘Bad Moms‘ Coming from the screenwriters of ‘The Hangover‘ Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, ‘Bad Moms‘ has assembled a great female cast and hopes to capture the lucrative audience that turned up in droves for ‘Bridesmaids‘. But was that a lightning in a bottle success or can Moms be raunchy too?
Don’t answer that question. And if you decide to Google the answer, make sure the “safe search” is on.
Amy Mitchill (Kunis) is a married, working mother with two kids. But after one particularly tough series of events including discovering her husband having an affair and being dragged to a pitiful P.T.A. meeting run by the overzealous and domineering Gwendolyn James (Applegate) she decides to give up trying to be a “perfect” mother. Along with Kiki (Bell), a timid stay-at-home mother of four and Carla (Hahn), a single-mother and cougar, the three decide to have fun and be “Bad Moms” and beat Gwendolyn at her own game by having Amy run against her as the new head of the P.T.A.
‘Bad Moms‘, despite the marketing effects trying to make you think it’s a booze-loving, sex-filled, raunchy comedy, is actually a lot more kind-hearted then it would have you believe. Yes, there’s some rude humour but much like ‘Bridesmaids‘ its heart is worn on its sleeve and the film feels earnest with the film ending on a particularly effective note where the main cast are interviewed with their own mothers over the credits. Because despite the title, ‘Bad Moms‘ is not about a group of characters who want to be terrible people. They consider “bad moms” to be anything less than “perfect” and it’s the need to be perfect and the pressure from others to be flawless mother figures that sets off the events of the film.
It’s easy to sympathise, especially when you have a character like Christina Applegate’s Gwendolyn scrutinising everyone and while it feels like her group of gossiping, judging mothers could have had more of a presense throughout the film, the way the movie ends helps to cast Gwendolyn in a very different light. But most of the focus is on the three leads; Kunis, Bell and Hahn. Thankfully, they have great on-screen chemistry with each other and it’s clear that they’re having a huge amount of fun improvising with each other. However, while she’s normally great in comedies it feels like the weak-link is Kristen Bell who seems slightly miscast as the stay-at-home Mom who lets her husband push her around and makes her do all the parental work. It’s a solid character on paper for a film like this, but it doesn’t amount to anything other than a token scene where she stands up to him…over the phone…and then there’s no pay-off at the end.
But, when the three are together, their differing parental styles and personalities clash appropriately, but they’re all united as mothers and their chemistry feels real as well as the connection to their children, especially for Amy. Special mention has to be given to Oona Laurence (the original Matilda from the Broadway version of ‘Matilda‘) who plays Amy’s daughter Jane who gives a great performance as a really socially awkward character who is just begging life to let her be normal.
However, the plot is about as predictable as you can get once it starts moving. The three start partying like mothers and the partying scenes are pretty cookie-cutter with lots of slow motion, pop-music, numerous shots of them drinking etc. and then Amy and Gwendolyn start competing for the head of the P.T.A. and then Amy has to make a big speech at the end and she has a relationship with the “hot widower” (which, to be fair, is a pretty funny gender-flip gag). There’s very few surprises in ‘Bad Moms‘ and you get almost exactly what you’d expect from it.
And, I’m aware that this is a superficial nit-pick, it feels like Mila Kunis is a bit too young for the role. Being 32 at the time of filming, it’s a little hard to buy her as a world-weary, stressed-to-the-max mother of two. She’s a great talent but I think ageing up the role by another 10 years would have helped to sell the character more. Also, it feels like Jada Pinkett Smith and Annie Mumolo have very little to do as Gwendolyn’s cronies. Annie occasionally has a funny line, but the two don’t add anything to the story and Pinkett Smith gets so little to do it makes me wonder why she’s so high up in the film’s credits and so prevalent in the marketing.
But ‘Bad Moms‘ is able to stay standing because its earnest and despite being the movie love-child of two guys, it feels like something women would be able to relate to and find added value in. It’s able to play well to guys (obviously from this review) but this is a film that doesn’t try to go above and beyond with gross-out humour to appeal to the male ‘The Hangover‘-loving demographic (like ‘Bridesmaids‘ did in its famous food-poisoning scene) but instead ‘Bad Moms‘ goes a bit more subtle, yet is still able to be memorable.
As the second film directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (but the 9th the two have written together), it’s clear that these two have more talent in the writing department then behind the cameras. Not that ‘Bad Moms‘ is a poorly directed movie, but it does feel much lower-budget then it actually is and some of the shooting-styles come across as TV-movie. Also, this may sound really weird, but all of the day-time scenes feel really over-lit. Like, despite taking place in domestic settings, it feels like there are a million artificial light sources washing everybody out. Maybe it was done as an attempt to air-brush all the women’s faces on set but it just look distracting. ‘Bad Moms‘ looks fine, but it might have been better had someone else been in the director’s chair. The music lacks any memorable themes and there’s a few too many modern, boring pop-songs for my liking.
And get off my lawn, you mothers!
‘Bad Moms‘ is a decent R-rated comedy with its heart in the right place and a unique interpretation of what actually makes a “bad mom” and what makes a “perfect mom”. It’s adequately acted, the leads have real chemistry even if some of the actors are left with little to contribute to the plot and you can predict most of the character arcs and see the twists coming from a mile away. But the jokes mostly hit on target and the end credits alone almost make it worth the price of admission. ‘Bad Moms‘ is a decent comedy that aims for a specific demographic and on its own terms it succeeds admirably.
I give ‘Bad Moms‘ 3 and a half stars out of 5.
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Posted: 8th Jan 17