Bad Moms (STX Entertainment, R)

This movie comes with a bit of wish fulfillment and what one might begrudgingly call “pandering to the women in the audience.”

Bad Moms

There is now a genre of “Bad” movies which revolve around normal people in common societal roles (mall Santas, teachers, judges, moms, etc.) who act out in a darkly comedic fashion, and these movies often live up to their titles by being terrible. Aside from Bad Santa’s cult following, I’ve never heard of a “Bad” movie achieving any real success. And I suspect that, just due to the title, Bad Moms will likely result in a lot of dismissal. I imagine it will make natural enemies with the uptight and snobbish, and especially with men who hate women being funny. Even some progressives are lashing out at it for making a Boys Don’t Cry joke (which was so short that I didn’t even notice it in the movie. I had to look it up after the fact. The joke was less about ridiculing trans men and more about Mila Kunis’ bra squashing her boobs). At the start I felt a little worried. These movies are never good, so I figured I was bound to write a negative review, and I don’t want to come across as unwilling to let moms make me laugh. My mom makes me laugh. As a critic, I always feel a sense of relief when a movie I thought was going to be bad turns out not to be bad. Bad Moms is about women, and it’s for women, and while it makes no attempt to create a very original or compelling story, the characters are original and compelling, and the actresses who play them are very, very funny.

Mila Kunis plays Amy Mitchell, a hardworking mom of two who is struggling to arrive at any engagement on time, much less be an active participant in the PTA. Having ditched her cheating husband, she “quits” being a school mom, focusing instead on partying with her new friends, Kiki and Carla (Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn) who are also shunned by the masses of PTA moms led by the nasty Gwedolyn (Christina Applegate) and her cohorts (Jada Pinkett Smith and Annie Mumolo). Upon refusing to participate in her regime, Gwendolyn goes to great lengths to blacklist Amy’s kids, inciting a mom-war between herself and those looking to escape the constant, catty judgement.

Not everything works in this movie. I won’t pretend that it does. First of all, I think it’s absurd that simply not participating in PTA events would be sufficient motivation for anyone to blackball someone’s child, and not in a funny way. I think the screenplay throws in conflicts that are resolved way too easily, resulting in several instances that feel like complete copouts. I also think the trio of Applegate, Pinkett Smith, and Mumolo is incredibly weak compared to the other players. Luckily, the writers know where the real strengths lie, and that is in the idiosyncrasies of their main characters and the capacity for humor in all three.

Mila Kunis is the every-woman, bringing stability and drive to the narrative and providing a solid base for her costars to bounce funny lines off of (and she has a handful of funny lines herself). Kristen Bell does a great spin on the common “wet-blanket” character by being equally sheltered and weirdly kinky (her erotic fantasies involve men braiding her hair). Kathryn Hahn is one of my top favorite comedic actresses today, and while her character’s characteristic vulgarity and horniness may grow tiresome for many, it only served to amuse me. Additionally, we’re given great cameos from Wanda Sykes and Martha Stewart.

This movie comes with a bit of wish fulfillment and what one might begrudgingly call “pandering to the women in the audience.” The hot guy is open and sensitive, they put women’s pleasure before theirs in the bedroom, and there’s some pretty raunchy jokes at the expense of penises everywhere. But let us look at it from the other perspective. How many male-driven comedies even mention cunnilingus? Not many that I can count. There’s nothing wrong with a little pandering now and then, especially in comedy. I think women, especially moms, will get at least some enjoyment out of Bad Moms, and even twenty-two year old dudes like me can join in on the fun, so long as you’re willing to embrace its viewpoint.

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