The Internet is filled with so-called “mum blogs” offering advice on raising a child, and how rewarding it is to be a “model mother.” The rebuttal to this kind of thinking has inspired BAD MOMS, the latest in a series of films that uses a negative adjective to describe its subject. Like Bad Santa, Bad Teacher, Bad Grandpa, and Bad Neighbours (if you’re outside the US at least), the corruption of goodness proves once again to be solid, albeit lightweight, entertainment.
Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, the creative team behind The Hangover and 21 & Over, apply their familiar formula to a new cast. Illinois mother Amy (Mila Kunis) works for a coffee startup, juggling two children, and a lazy husband. Her patience reaches its snapping point after she catches her husband cheating with a dairy farmer on the Internet, and dictatorial PTA president Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate) forces her to quit the parents’ group. Together with oversexed single mum Carla (Kathryn Hahn) and stay-at-home mother Kiki (Kristen Bell), the trio goes head-to-head with “good mum” Gwendolyn and her cronies Stacy (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Vicky (Annie Mumolo).
BAD MOMS has a mostly heart, despite its raunchy shopfront, which is perhaps why it never goes quite as far as it possibly could. There’s a lot to like here: Kunis, Bell and Hahn are an unlikely but charming trio, and there’s a riotous sequence in a supermarket that is actually hilarious. Indeed, the sight of Hahn charging at a frightened security guard is worth the price of admission alone. Yet the off-the-rails hijinks of the group has no real consequence, and after an hour or so of random acts of dissent, it feels like a lot of movement for a little gain. Similarly, it’s also difficult to pin down any kind of motivation for Gwendolyn’s antagonism, except in a queen bee kind of way, so there’s no immediacy to any of it. BAD MOMS stops just short of being memorable, although it still provides plenty of laughs in the process.
The ultimate message of the film is a little mixed, with Amy’s moment of subversion tempered by a lecture in bad moral judgment from her neurotic daughter. The cop-out ending is designed to elicit cheers from its target demographic in a calculated manner, and wraps up everyone’s problems in a neat little package. If anything, it perpetuates the same stereotypical mother myth that it set out to skewer in the first place. Leaving the audience with a series of clips showing the cast interviewing their real-life mothers during the credits brings more of the “warm and fuzzies”, but it also conclusively proves that there was nothing especially rebellious about the film in the first place.
BAD MOMS is released in Australia on 11 August 2016 from Roadshow Films. It was released in the US on 29 July 2016.
2016 | US | DIR: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore | WRITER: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore | CAST: Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Annie Mumolo, Jada Pinkett Smith, Christina Applegate | RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes | DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Films (AUS) | RATING: ★★★