We’ve all seen ‘em: those perfectly-put-together moms at your kids’ school drop-off, sporting Lululemon yoga wear or the latest designer ensemble. Whatever overpriced threads they’ve cloaked themselves in, they’re always wearing the same judgmental look, narrowed eyes, slightly upturned smile, and of course Calvin Klein’s latest metaphorical eau de parfume, Condescension. Writer-Directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore’s BAD MOMS aims to skewer those mean mommies, but also gives all the hard-working moms a voice in a new revolution. Viva la “Bad” Moms!
Amy (Mila Kunis) is on the verge of a nervous breakdown; she’s overworked and underpaid by her employer (Clark Duke). Her kids, Dylan (Emjay Anthony) and Jane (powerhouse Oona Laurence) underappreciate all her acts of love and kindness. Her husband Mike (David Walton) is constantly taking her for granted. Plus, she’s harshly judged at her kids’ drop-off by an abrasively intimidating mom squad – including PTA president Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate), dimwit Vicky (Annie Mumolo) and gossipy Stacy (Jada Pinkett Smith). However, after catching her husband engaging in an online affair, things begin to change drastically. She kicks the lout to the curb, tells her boss off OFFICE SPACE-style and does an about-face when teaching her kids how to fend for themselves. Not only that, but she also makes friends with two other drop-off outcasts – outrageous Carla (Kathryn Hahn, who is overdue for a raucous comedy of her own) and frazzled stay-at-home-mom Kiki (Kristen Bell, who utters the film’s most quotable lines). Of course Gwendolyn and her crew don’t like Amy’s autonomy one bit, and set out to break her will.
BAD MOMS represents Lucas and Moore’s most enlightened work yet. For once they write women as dynamic human beings (and subversively write male characters as either “the Madonna” or “the whore” archetypes), spectacularly nailing how women talk to each other. When it’s funny, it’s genuinely hilarious. While they rely heavily on what I like to call “mom-tages,” some of the best scenes are the ones where the three ladies riff – like when they discuss uncircumcised penises, or when Kiki and Carla are wing-woman-ing, or when they simultaneously hate loving on their kids’ attributes. Carla’s invoking of Ike Turner’s name had me almost doing a spit take. The lecture Amy gives to son Dylan about entitlement will and should have both parents and non-parents cheering. I just hope the audience for this will listen to Lucas and Moore, and be the change they want to see. A blessed surprise is that these “bad” moms don’t exactly live up to their moniker. They never really do anything “bad” – they are only rebelling against utterly ridiculous societal pressures set by the mom caste system. It’s more about them finding perfection in imperfection – a universal lesson. They don’t fail their families. They learn to assert themselves on the journey towards self-acceptance.
That said, perhaps it’s ironically fitting that this film isn’t totally perfect; clocking in at an hour and forty-one minutes, there’s ten minutes that could stand to be excised. Pacing is a noticeable problem. We don’t need a “let’s get back together scene” with the ex-hubby right after Amy has sex with the hot widower (Jay Hernandez) – mainly because we don’t root for them to get back together after she lands the dream guy. And the scene with the ex just eats up time showing what we knew before: that he’s a louse. Maybe it’s not totally feminist of me to say, but Lucas and Moore try too hard on the inclusivity sentiment. The concept of redeeming the bully feels tired – especially the way its handled here. Gwendolyn is past the point of no return in the audience’s eyes by the third act. She tried to irrevocably harm a child for Pete’s sake! It’s problematic that our inner “momma bears” are unleashed more than the protagonist’s when it comes time for the antagonist’s rock bottom.
When it comes down to it, BAD MOMS is really a celebration of good moms. Though I tend to value this movie more for what it stands for (a pioneering force for more female-driven rated-r comedy) than for what it is, this is bound to resonate with a lot of you moms out there. It’s the perfect film to grab your girlfriends and go see.
3.5 out of 5