Bad Moms

| November 1, 2016

In Bad Moms Mila Kunis is Amy Mitchell, a married woman with a lot on her plate. Amy works as a sales representative for a hip Chicago coffee company. She also is a stellar full-time mom to two children, Dylan and Jane. She loves many things about her life, but she is also harassed, underappreciated and, basically, abused. Her children are whiny, inconsiderate punks. Her boss (Clarke Duke) is an arrogant asshole. And her husband Mike (David Walton) is a loathsome lout who doesn’t help Amy with their kids, their house, anything.

After Amy catches Mike secretly cheating on her with an internet girlfriend, she throws him out of their suburban Chicago home. She then attempts to soldier on as if nothing has happened, but her resolve soon breaks. This results in her quitting the PTA of her children’s school and running afoul of the PTA President Gwendolyn James (Christina Applegate). Rocked by these developments, Amy decides, at long last, to abandon her slavish, self-destructive stance on motherhood. After a night of heavy drinking, Amy decides to embark on being a “bad mom,” an act of rebellion that leads to new friends, new enemies and a whole lot of montages.

Bad Moms is one of the most conventional and generic movies that I’ve seen in a good long while. The story religiously hits each beat of a three-act structure, and its plot developments are telegraphed from a mile away. Watching it with my brother, I lost count of how many times he exclaimed “Oh jeeze!” in response to the stupidly predictable nature of the film’s story and sensibilities.

That said, working within the confines of an unambitious, mainstream Hollywood narrative, the filmmakers deliver a movie that is enjoyable in bursts and palatable throughout its run time. Filmmakers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore – best known for the similarly pedestrian The Hangover and The Change-Up – inject Bad Moms with a lean, energetic air. They also draw some effective visual humor from a plethora of montages set to tunes cribbed from the Top 40s Chart.

The film also effectively capitalizes on the capable performances from its three central actresses. Amy is joined in her Bad Mom quest by two other moms who have kids that attend school with Amy’s children: Kristin Bell’s nerdy, repressed Kiki and Kathryn Hahn’s hypersexual Carla. The film’s script (also written by Moore and Lucas) doesn’t give any of the women much from which to work. All three women are essentially playing stock characters, with Bell playing the nerd, Hahn the sexpot and Kunis the everywoman. It does however arm them with some funny lines and moments of tenderness. The best scenes combine both, such as a moment when the three moms are talking about how stupid their kids are but how they still love them anyway.

Bad Moms’ message, if there is one, seems to be that while motherhood is a confounding, challenging and maddening experience, it is also rewarding and enriching. It’s just disturbing that the film clearly characterizes this emotionally dichotomous state as being solely a female preoccupation. Bad Moms is shockingly retrograde in its worldview on gender roles and parenting, with almost no men shown as present in the lives of their children. The one exception to this trend is Jessie (Jay Hernandez), a hunky, chiseled Adonis and widower who Amy hooks up with, who seems to be an active father only because his wife is as dead as a doornail.

Combining this regressive attitude with a strict allegiance to formula is never a good idea. As mentioned, Bad Moms simply doesn’t hold many (or any) surprises. You know from the very first scene that Applegate’s villainous Gwendolyn is actually a lonely soul looking for catharsis, just as you know that a deus ex machina ending will fix all of Amy’s problems before the final frames roll. Essentially, you’ve seen all this before, and this structural banality occasionally prompts one to feel seriously disengaged. This occurs even with the effective dialogue, performances and key directorial flourishes. It relegates the film to being little more than a pleasant albeit forgettable distraction.

Bad Moms is now available on BluRay and DVD.

About the Author:

Adam Mohrbacher is a freelance film critic and writer who currently lives in Denver, CO.
Filed in: Video and DVD

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