You know what’s been great about this summer? That fact that so many of the major releases going back to The Boss, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, Finding Dory and Ghostbusters have all featured a heavily female cast, something that you don’t often get to experience in the cinematic season that is so usually filled with action blockbusters and superheroes. Though the actual quality of those movies mentioned varied greatly, the one thing I did appreciate was seeing women (and fish) of all shapes, sizes and colours on the big screen, and it looked like Bad Moms was set to continue this trend.
The film tells the story of Amy Mitchell (Mila Kunis), an overworked and under-appreciated mother who, along with new found school run friends Kiki (Kristen Bell) and Carla (Kathryn Hahn), decides to rebel against the strict regime of the PTA led by dictator mom Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate), disregard all the rules in the good mom handbook, and reclaim the wild ’20s’ years that she lost bringing up two children. Anybody who has seen films like Bridesmaids and Sisters will know exactly what to expect from Bad Moms, and though the film hits all of the predictable narrative beats and takes very few innovative turns, the truth is that playing it relatively safe doesn’t matter when the audience are having fun, and for the most part, I have to say that I was having more fun than I thought I would. There is no denying that the entire affair is rather silly, the audience are treated to montages of drunken grocery store visits and raucous middle aged house parties, but what makes all of it completely palatable is the better than average dialogue that is exchanged between the likeable leads. The humour is very much in that tried and tested category of ‘just risqué enough but not too offensive’, with splashes of vulgarity that are measured out with funny one liners and a handful of hilarious exchanges that had me genuinely belly laughing on a mundane Thursday evening.
Amongst the ‘moms acting out’ chaos there is an attempt to ground the film in a certain sentimentality about recognising you cannot be a wild child and a good mother simultaneously, but is actually when the film tries to get meaningful and saccharine with regards to the true nature of motherhood that the tempo slows and fun vibe disappears. Sure, the rules of cinema dictate that a journey has to be taken and a moral lesson learned, but it certainly felt like the filmmakers were less interested in this part of the narrative, as were all of the audience in my screening. What we liked best, and what I suspect the filmmakers liked best, was seeing these women in hilariously outlandish situations, enjoying each other’s company, and living out many of the fantasies that I am sure middle aged mother’s across the world would love to experience. Ultimately, Bad Moms is a female centric comedy that certainly contains enough genuine laughs to provide a fun time. Other comedies have done it better, but more importantly other comedies have done it much, much worse, and though the film isn’t going to be winning any awards for bringing something new to the table, it’s certainly one to add to your list of ‘night in with the girls’ movies.
A lot of the film’s enjoyment comes from the really great on screen chemistry that is shared between its three leading ladies. Though I spent a lot of time struggling to accept the beautiful, borderline teenage looking Mila Kunis as a downtrodden working mom, her performance as Amy Mitchell is solid and evokes some of the more grounded comedy in order for her two co-stars to be a little more quirky and outlandish. Kristen Bell gives a suprisingly believable performance as Kiki, a housewife with four kids who is dominated by her husband but little by little begins to come out of her shell. As is the custom ever since Melissa McCarthy’s breakout role as Megan in Bridesmaids, there must a vulgar, extroverted member of the crew, and this job falls in the lap of Kathryn Hahn who is hilarious as the sexually fluid, rule breaking single mom Carla. Hahn’s joke per minute rate is exceptionally high through the narrative, and although at times the character might seem a little over calculated and ‘fan serving’, the fact of the matter is that the hit to miss ratio is very much in the black, and I found myself laughing hard at most of her contributions. Brief mention for Christina Applegate who revels in playing the classic pinched ‘bitch mom’ with a stick up her ass. Her comic timing was exceptional as always and she provided a worthy antagonist for a plot that, if we are being honest, is pretty much secondary to the fun set pieces that allow these actresses to misbehave and bring the audience some immature joy.
Overall, Bad Moms is something of a pleasant surprise in a genre that can so easily produce lack lustre, exploitative films that are anything but funny. A fun script made physically funny by three great leading actresses, the film won’t be on anybody’s top ten lists for the year but it is certainly one that I look forward to revisiting on a Friday night with my best friends and plenty of alcohol on hand.