Directors: Scott Moore, Jon Lucas
Cast: Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Christina Applegate, Oona Laurence
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The title of this post-Bridesmaids comedy about the stresses of modern-day motherhood positions it alongside the likes of Bad Santa and Bad Teacher for cinematic shorthand purposes. However, the association doesn’t really do it any favours, because Bad Moms is surprisingly sweet at heart.
Written and directed by Scott Moore and Jon Lucas (who wrote The Hangover), the film stars Mila Kunis as Amy, a 32 year-old mother of two precocious tweens (Oona Laurence and Emjay Anthony), who kicks out her dopey husband, Mike (David Walton), after she catches him cheating online. Already frazzled, Amy snaps when needled by snobbish PTA president Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate) and declares her intention to run against her, aiming to strike a blow for all the moms who are less than perfect.
Fortunately, Amy quickly finds herself some allies in the shape of goody-two-shoes mother-of-four Kiki (Kristen Bell) and outspoken, hard-partying single mum Carla (Kathryn Hahn), and the trio soon become fast friends, making a pact to be “bad moms” together. And when Amy catches the eye of cute single dad Jessie (Jay Hernandez), her two new buddies are on hand for indispensable advice.
Kunis, Bell and Hahn are skilled comedic performers and all three are on fine form here, generating infectious comic chemistry to the point where it’s fun just to listen to them riff off each other – the scene where they critique Amy’s bra before she heads out on a date (“You have a real Boys Don’t Cry thing happening here”) is one of several highlights.
The sharp contrast between Bell and Hahn’s characters is particularly effective, and it’s heightened by their stand-out performances, with every line, gesture and facial expression working in perfect harmony. This culminates in one of the film’s funniest set pieces, which sees Carla using Kiki’s head to demonstrate to Amy what to do if she encounters an uncircumcised penis. Applegate, too, is great value as grown-up Mean Girl Gwendolyn, although Jada Pinkett-Smith is criminally wasted as one of her underlings (no doubt the box office takings for Girls Trip is adequate compensation).
Given the title, a little more of a subversive edge wouldn’t have gone amiss – as it is, their bad behaviour extends to trashing a supermarket in slow motion (a scene that really needed a “clean-up on aisle five” pay-off) and some drunken partying, all of which feels relatively tame, especially considering the creative team involved.
That said, there’s a reason that the film opts to keep things grounded, as it clearly prizes relatability above outrageousness. To that end, the film achieves its goal admirably, delivering a sincere “it’s okay not to be perfect” message alongside likeable characters and a commendably high gag rate. It seems to have struck a chord, too, as the characters are all returning for A Bad Moms Christmas at the end of the year.
Bad Moms is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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