Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn, Kristen Bell, Christina Applegate, Annie Mumolo, Jada Pinkett Smith, Oona Laurence, Emjay Anthony, Clark Duke, Jay Hernandez, Wendell Pierce, Leah McKendrick, Megan Ferguson, Lyle Brocato, Wanda Sykes, Cade Cooksey, JJ Watt,
R for sexual material, full frontal nudity, language throughout, and drug and alcohol content
Buy on DVD/Blu-ray
R-rated comedies have come fast and furious the last several years, tapping into a market that clamors for humor of the not-quite-kosher kind. Myriad films have tried, few have succeeded and although Bad Moms has a lot of problems, it works a great deal of the time.
Mila Kunis plays a mother on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Her children are flippant, her husband is a waste of space, her work life takes advantage of her part-time help, and the PTA leader (Christian Applegate) is a control freak. As she makes friends with the bad-girl mom (Kathryn Hahn) and the pliant housewife (Kristen Bell), she comes to the realization that she doesn’t need to be the perfect mother to be a great one.
Thus, she embarks on an effort to live her life as she sees fit rather than at the whim of those around her. Her assertions, however, engender a conflict with the PTA leading to her imperfect run for the presidency, and which sets off a chain of events that threaten to destroy her.
With a career of incredibly uneven work, Mila Kunis has seldom shown promise. Her That ’70s Show character and performance were mediocre and her work in The Wachowskis’ Jupiter Ascending wasn’t much better. She’s also turned in tepid performances in Oz the Great and Powerful, The Book of Eli, and Max Payne, films that weren’t good regardless of her performances. Yet, Kunis gave us a terrific performance in Black Swan, for which she was almost nominated for an Academy Award. Since that film, she has gravitated towards schlocky productions, but from that point forward, I have taken that promise and hoped she could elevate back to that. Perhaps it’s her own motherhood that perfectly informed her work here, but her comedy chops got a workout and she came out on the other side of her career better off from the journey.
As her compatriots, Hahn and Bell are also strong giving finely nuanced and laugh-out-loud performances that are well influenced by their terrific past work. Less impressive though, are the trio of PTA moms who are thought to be perfect, but are anything but. Focused on stereotypical villainy, Applegate and her cohorts Jada Pinkett Smith and Annie Mumolo, are barely passable.
This is a film that resonates with anyone struggling to be a parent. After decades of such ideals as Florence Henderson as Mrs. Brady, Barbara Billingsley as Mrs. Clever, and countless other impossibly perfect role models, it’s wonderful to see an embrace of a counter-archetype, the flawed mother who doesn’t feel the need to impress others to be successful.
That Bad Moms balances raunchy humor with an overly traditional narrative framework is something of a feat. For a film like this, an asymmetric conclusion might have been advisable and while the predictable and neatly-wrapped ending is frustrating, the film, for the most part, succeeds at what it set out to do.
June 27, 2018