Let me preface this review by saying I am not a mom. I don’t know anything about minivans, soccer practice, pregnancy or PTA meetings, considering I grew up in a town of 350 people with a tiny school that didn’t need a PTA. I am not a mom, but I’d like to be one at some point.
Unfortunately, “Bad Moms” paints a pretty disappointing picture of Mom World despite its best intentions.
Mila Kunis, only a few years removed from getting sexy with Natalie Portman as a wild-child ballerina in “Black Swan,” plays Amy, a 30-something woman who had her first child at 20 and is now stuck in the whirlwind of motherhood: shuttling her kids from school to extracurricular activities, holding down a job, grocery shopping and getting dinner on the table before she finishes her son’s history project for him.
Her husband, Mike, is an overgrown frat boy, and Amy feels like she’s constantly messing up in all aspects of her crazy life. Things quickly go downhill for Amy and her family, and it’s when she’s at her lowest that she meets two new friends, frazzled stay-at-home mom Kiki (Kristen Bell) and Carla (Kathryn Hahn), a single mom who’s always hitting on the dads in the school parking lot.
They decide to be bad moms and stop breaking their backs to be perfect, and Amy finds herself again in her new life. (Please note that they literally say the title of the movie aloud like a prophecy. That’s only OK in “Jurassic Park.”)
Men play a very secondary role in “Bad Moms,” a fact that has its pros and cons. Mike has no depth and zero redeeming qualities as a human, so you don’t feel anything at all when the two separate. Then there’s a love interest for the newly single Amy, who’s never been with a man she wasn’t married to, but there’s not really a point to this story line besides giving producers an opportunity to sneak Fifth Harmony’s “Work From Home” into a sex scene.
“Bad Moms” was written and directed by men, and you can totally tell that they tried really hard to write a movie that women would enjoy and identify with. Emphasis on tried.
The major issue with “Bad Moms” is that it really, truly could’ve been funny. Bell is funny! Hahn is funny — she and Christina Applegate are the funniest parts of the movie! Kunis is funny, too, and totally charming in a leading role, but all of these actresses were basically wasted on a movie that never gives its characters room to breathe between silly gags, saccharine speeches and sex jokes.
The women in the movie don’t ever really move off the pages of the script; you’ve got the nerdy, uptight friend who finally loosens up and starts doing Whip-Its, the trashy friend with glitter eye shadow and cleavage who sleeps around, the rich, uptight Martha Stewart-wannabe blonde. These aren’t real people you know. These aren’t your girlfriends who you manage to meet for brunch once a month sans strollers and sippy cups. These are people created for a movie, and “Bad Moms” doesn’t let you forget it.
The film had comedy potential, but loses itself trying to accomplish too much. Either you run rampant with F-words or you slap a PG rating on it and up the physical comedy and overplayed pop song montages.
“Bad Moms” wants very badly to be a mix of “Bridesmaids” and “Mean Girls,” but fails because it lacks heart. “Bridesmaids” was a movie about an actual person with very real faults and emotions, and “Mean Girls” was too clever for its own good. “Bad Moms” can’t quite hang at that same playground. It has more than its share of cliché scenes of uplifting pep talks between the moms and vulnerable tears, but they feel plasticky, false.
This is a movie packaged up to sell tickets to chardonnay-drinking “bad moms” everywhere, who just want to have a margarita or two before turning off their phones in a movie theater and forgetting that there are diapers, dishes and dads awaiting them at home.
Kara Nesvig is a Minneapolis-based writer.