“Bad Moms” plays on our collective expectations about motherly behavior. Writer/directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore have plucked some pop psychology from the parenting zeitgeist, stuffed it into a high school mean girls formula, and then added plenty of f-bombs and raunchy sex talk to make it edgy.
The number one bad mom in question is actually a pretty good mom. Amy (Mila Kunis) has been a working soccer mom since the age of 20, making everything perfect for her two terrible kids and no-good deadbeat husband Mike (David Walton). After a marital rift and a very bad day capped with a bake sale meeting run by the dictatorial Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate), Amy throws up her hands and cries uncle with the whole perfect mom thing.
She finds companionship in two other outsiders – Kiki (Kristen Bell), a haggard housewife to four little ones, and Carla (Kathryn Hahn), a single mom who wields her sexuality like a weapon. The trio bands together to form a Bad Mom movement of sorts. Here, “bad” means selfish. It means taking the time to be a person in the world, someone who savors a solo breakfast, who thinks about her own needs first, who has a personal identity other than “Mom.”
There are some other trenchant ideas about millennial mom culture that flit by, but “Bad Moms” never manages to pin them down to truly draw blood.
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While it’s clear that Lucas and Moore have great affection for moms good and bad, they definitely aren’t moms themselves. The moms are cartoonish caricatures, and the emotions ring hollow. When Kunis declares her love for her kids, it feels like she’s just met them.
The problem with “Bad Moms” isn’t the concept, or the message about the struggle to raise good people in the world – it’s the execution. From the micro level to the macro, the film is a hasty, shoddy mess, with performances that are serviceable at best. It’s stitched together with a hatchet edit job, glossed over with slow-mo and Top 40 hits. “Bad Moms” makes a compelling argument for embracing imperfection and vulnerability, but we shouldn’t have to accept that kind of messiness in our movies.
Cast: Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn, Kristen Bell, Christina Applegate
Directors: Jon Lucas and Scott Moore
Length: 101 minutes
Rating: R (sexual material, full frontal nudity, language, drug and alcohol content)
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