The Hippo


Apr 24, 2019








Bad Moms

Bad Moms (R)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

By Amy Diaz

A harried mom decides to ditch bake sales and trade in elaborate hot breakfasts for cereal in Bad Moms, a cute comedy aimed squarely at anybody who has ever spent an evening working on an unnecessary-seeming school project.

Amy Mitchell (Mila Kunis) has two kids, a part-time job that actually seems to be more full time, a dog with vertigo and a husband, Mike (David Walton), who she learns has been carrying on an affair, of sorts, via the internet. She doesn’t need the static directed at her by Gwendolyn James (Christina Applegate), the head mean-girl mom at her kids’ school who is also head of the all-powerful PTA. At a meeting where Gwendolyn explains that the treats at the upcoming bake sale must be homemade and free of all possible allergens and chemicals, Amy snaps and says she’s out.
She heads to a neighboring (to the school?) bar, where she meets Carla (Kathryn Hahn), a fellow single mom who has never gone in for school participation. The two start a round of drinks when Kiki (Kristen Bell) runs in to fan-girl at Amy for how much she liked her inspiring, stick-it-to-the-alpha-moms speech. After much drinking, the women (or, most relevantly, Amy) decide to stop with the helicoptering and the over-involvement and be “bad moms.”
Because this decision to lighten up on the momming threatens Gwendolyn’s autocratic hold on the PTA, she decides to take Amy down (as only people in movies would ever bother to do), even going so far as to interfere in one of Amy’s kid’s after-school activities. When Amy decides messing with her kids is a step too far, she resolves to run against Gwendolyn in the upcoming PTA elections. And when the women throw competing parties, we all learn that even Martha Stewart-made hors d’oeuvres can’t beat cheap wine, pizza and loud music played to the crack of 11 p.m.
Because even when moms cut loose, they still gotta get to bed early.
“Moms cutting loose” is, of course, the source of the humor for this medium effort movie. And, sure, it’s kinda cutesy, with its scenes of Amy wackily arriving late to everything and Kiki and Carla bemoaning her sad attempts at sexy clothes. But it also has some good moments of goofiness, usually due to the just-a-bit-weird delivery of Kathryn Hahn and Kristen Bell. Bell in particular makes her stay-at-home mom Kiki enough of an oddball that she isn’t just some meek sad lady with Cheerios in her hair. With her fantasies about getting into a car accident (nothing too bad, just bad enough that she has to spend two weeks in the hospital, she says) and the prisoner-on-furlough vibe she gives off when she gets to leave her house, she manages to create a character with a bit of layers. Hahn also keeps her character from just being “the trampy one” and Kunis does a good job of delivering realish-person reactions to the somewhat overly contrived things happening around her.
This movie might not be the sharpest comedy but it’s smart and sharp enough to be enjoyable. I’d have liked the movie even more if not for two story beats that rang false. In the first, Amy’s daughter Jane (Oona Laurence) yells at her, calling her selfish (among other things) because Amy’s fight with Gwendolyn led to Jane’s getting in serious trouble (in a scene which the movie treats as a prank — ha ha! — but in real life would lead to Gwendolyn at least getting arrested). The movie seems to endorse the view that Amy’s decision to occasionally have fun and stop doing her children’s homework for them is somehow a step too negligent. In reality, Jane’s troubles come not from her mother’s insistence that the kids learn to fix their own cereal instead of expecting a Sunday brunch every day but from another adult planting evidence of a crime. That a teenage girl (or in this case, tweenage girl) screams at her mother for ruining her life is totally normal; that the movie somewhat endorses her is silly and actually counter to what seems to be the movie’s own point of view.
(The movie’s real-est moments about parenthood actually come during the credits, which are funny and sweet and worth staying around for. The movie’s main actresses, including Jada Pinkett Smith and Annie Mumolo, who play Gwendolyn’s mom-crew, sit around talking about mothers and daughters with their own moms. It includes more harrowing moments of parenthood and more mom-to-kid, kid-to-mom appreciation than anything in the movie.)
The second off-key moment comes when Kiki and Carla motivate Amy to get back in the fray saying moms don’t quit, to which Kiki responds something like “yeah, quitting is for dads.” And, OK, again, ha-ha to this 1980s sitcom joke, but the movie is actually pretty light on dad-related commentary and would have been smarter if it included men who were portrayed as humans. We see a perfect dad in hot-widow-dad Jesse (Jay Hernandez) and a couple of jerk-dads in Amy and Kiki’s husbands (Lyle Brocato), but no dads with any real depth of personality. 
But considering that there aren’t a lot of movies made about middle-aged (even if “middle-aged” here is 32) ladies getting tipsy or partying mightily (while still keeping track of their mom bags!), I can forgive the movie for not going deeper or being more pointed in its commentary. And, as it is, the movie does something commendable, which is acknowledging that parenting can be difficult thankless work that exhausts you even as it is also the source of some of life’s greatest joy. Allowing motherhood to be those two things at once and laughing about it makes Bad Moms a bit of goofy light-hearted fun. B-
Rated R for sexual material, full frontal nudity, language throughout, and drug and alcohol content. Written and directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, Bad Moms is an hour and 40 minutes long and distributed by STX Entertainment.

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