Film Review: Bad Moms (MA15+) (USA, 2016) proves to be hilarious and little bit enlightening

When I realized that the directors of this film (also the writers of The Hangover) also directed the awful 2013 teen comedy 21 and Over and contributed screenplays to abysmal comedies like Four Christmases, Ghost of Girlfriends Past and Rebound, it’s fair to say that I went into Bad Moms – out in cinemas tomorrow – with a fair deal of trepidation. But my fears were almost totally unfounded. Bad Moms proved to be a surprisingly hilarious film that’s a little bit enlightening, a little bit satirical and features a stand-out performance from Kathryn Hahn.

Mila Kunis stars as Amy Mitchell, an overworked and underappreciated 32-year-old suburban wife and mother of two stressed-out kids (Oona Laurence and Emjay Anthony). Amy seems to have it all together, but in truth, she’s on the way towards her breaking point. Her husband Mike (David Walton) is a lazy, selfish, man-child who is secretly having an affair; her younger boss (Clark Duke) is demanding and unappreciative; and her mommy peers (consisting of Christina Applegate, Jada Pinkett Smith and Annie Mumolo) are bullies who shame her parenting skills when she drops her kids off at school every day.

Upon realizing what her life has become from all this, she decides that enough is enough and through an act of defiance, she becomes a “Bad Mom”. Inspired by her actions, the low self-esteemed stay-at-home mother Kiki (Kristen Bell) and the collected, yet oversexed single mother Carla (Kathryn Hahn) join Amy in her quest for some quality time for themselves.

If you judged from the film’s trailer that this film is essentially The Hangover with women, you’re not far off the mark. With thin characters, over-the-top hijinks, an undercurrent of sexism and a questionable outlook in its themes, it’s a wonder that the film works quite well. Directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore get good mileage out of the premise that it enlightens at times with some truths and even uses true-to-life themes to makes their gags work even better.

Like in a scene where the Moms are fantasizing about their escapes out of their motherly duties and Amy just wants a quiet breakfast… by herself! Or another scene where Kiki and Carla are preparing Amy for a night out by perusing her wardrobe and they are not pleased at what they see. It just goes to show that a little relatability goes a long way.

But the film does come across cartoonish at times and does rob the power of the film’s message. And as much as the hilarity persists through the film’s running time, the direction does leave something to be desired. Like the overuse of musical montages that litter throughout, regardless of whether it is comedic or dramatic, it gets annoyingly repetitive after a while.

Even more problematic is the ending; which is not only overlong, but it is also a bit of a cop-out. Considering that the film was co-produced by Huayi Brothers, a Chinese-market film production, the ending certainly isn’t a surprise to witness.

But for the cast, it certainly is a surprise to see how much they make the film a success. Mila Kunis (coming back after Jupiter Ascending) is sympathetic and likable as Amy who hasn’t lost her comedic timing since being That 70’s Show. And in spite of her celeb status, she is surprisingly relatable as the struggling mother. Her interactions with flirtation device Jay Hernandez are a highlight as she makes a klutz of herself and she clearly isn’t against bearing the brunt of criticism i.e. a scene where she wears Spanx.

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Kristen Bell, who hasn’t been in a good comedy since the 2008 comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall (her cameo in the 2010 film Get Him to the Greek doesn’t count), is clearly having a ball as Kiki. Her awkwardness pays off with fantastic jokes, even when she’s not saying anything. There’s a scene where she’s standing in front of a mirror while Kunis and Hahn basically use her to describe something in a graphic fashion that I can only say that it is not kosher. As the villain of the piece, Christina Applegate squeezes the cliche role for all of its worth, even though she could have played this role in her sleep.

But the real MVP of the film is Kathryn Hahn as the nympho-like single mum, Carla. Clearly unstable when first appearing on-screen, she is just a pure dynamo of improvisation and physical comedy and is glorious to witness. I find her performance even more hilarious when I compare it to her dramatic performance in last year’s horror hit, The Visit. And it was great to see Oona Laurence on-screen again after her fantastic performance in last year’s boxing drama, Southpaw.

As much as I enjoyed the performances of the cast, there are some cast members that are severely underused, notably Jada Pinkett Smith and Annie Mumolo. Talented they most certainly are, their characters are just thin sketches that would require a lot of work to bring them to life.

Overall, Bad Moms is a lot of dumb fun with an incredibly game cast, led by the winning Kathryn Hahn. While it may not be as good as the 2003 cult classic comedy, Bad Santa, it is light years away from the 2011 comedic cesspool, Bad Teacher.

Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Bad Moms is in Australian cinemas on Thursday, August 11th