Sunday 14 August 2016

Film Review: Bad Moms

A trio of downtrodden moms cut loose and raise hell in this unruly, crowd-pleasing comedy from writer/director duo Jon Lucas and Scott Moore.

Bad Neighbours, Bad Santa, Bad Grandpa and now Bad Moms – does anyone else think this franchise is kind of all over the place? All kidding aside, contemporary R-rated Hollywood comedies have a fondness for taking something or someone innately inoffensive and flipping them on their heads, and now it’s moms who are thrust to the forefront from the writers of The Hangover trilogy.

Mila Kunis plays Amy, an overworked and underappreciated single mother who is struggling to balance her kids and her career. Perpetually running late for work and/or after school activities, Amy’s patience with the ultra-demanding PTA President Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate) begins to wear thin when faced with an upcoming bake sale. With her friends Carla (Kathryn Hahn) and Kiki (Kristen Bell) in tow, Amy vows to break free of the lofty expectations placed on mothers and challenge Gwendolyn’s overbearing regime.

If that premise sounds familiar or particularly resonant, it’s the central trio of Kunis, Hahn and Bell that really make this movie worth your time. They bounce off one another with an energy that makes certain moments pop with laughter. The supermarket scene where the three let loose on unsuspected shoppers is hilarious and filled with clever wish fulfilment gags. The rest? Eh, it’s okay. Applegate’s performance as Gwendolyn is great, if a little underused; I would’ve liked to see her really spread her wings as the malicious middle-school soccer mom version of Regina George.

The film does take a few liberties its characters too; Amy’s kids, Jane (Oona Laurence) and Dylan (Emjay Anthony), disappear off-screen whenever it suits the plot whilst the bulk of the parental characters are cookie-cutter stereotypes that lack depth. Hahn plays the ‘trashy trainwreck mom’ whilst Bell fits the bill as a meek stay-at-home pushover. Of course, Amy isn’t lumbered with such glaring flaws; her valiant effort to have it all isn’t only blighted by the limited number of hours in the day.

Credit where credit is due, the film does convey a heartfelt message about the importance and specialness of motherhood. Lucas and Moore settle on broad and easily palatable stuff for their intended audience, which is both a blessing and a curse; if you’re feeling generous, Bad Moms ends on a sugary sweet note that is earnest and profound. 

If you’re not, one could argue that it doesn’t take any risks, choosing instead to steer clear of offering any truly insightful commentary on the suffocating societal expectations that are placed on mothers. Maybe that’s asking too much of what is essentially a conveyor belt comedy spearheaded by the dudebros behind The Change-Up and The Hangover, but Hollywood comedies are broad at the best of times – maybe we should be asking for more that just easy, breezy fare that don’t strive to plumb deeper than surface level stuff.

The Verdict: 6/10

It’s far from great, but considering the current crop of crass Hollywood comedies, you could do a lot worse than Bad Moms. Save for a few missteps, the film packs in enough laughs to provide a diverting romp for its core audience – but for everyone else it’s a trite, no-frills affair that pulls its punches and wallows in some of the blandest, middle-class suburban stereotypes you’ll see this side of an episode of Modern Family.

Bad Moms is in cinemas across Australia now

This review was originally published over at Hooked on Film, a Perth based website where you can find even more new release movie reviews, features, interviews and insight. Click here to check it out. 

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