It’s not a good idea to pay too close attention to “Bad Moms.” It’s funnier if you don’t.
Take the scene when our overtaxed suburban Mom Amy, after a long godawful day, takes refuge in a bar after quitting the PTA at her kids’ school. She and two brand new Mom friends at the bar then get thoroughly, fall-down sloshed and invade their favorite supermarket, where they terrorize everybody, guzzle gallon bottles of milk and spray bagfuls of crunchy munchables all over the floor.
It’s an intrinsically funny idea – angry, drunk Moms at the end of their ropes taking it out on their local supermarket. Unless, that is, you think about it and you realize that they got to the supermarket from the bar when one of them – drunk as a skunk (as were they all) – had to drive them all in a car. At that point, the wonderful joke at the center of “Bad Moms” blurs a little.
So, whatever you do, just don’t look too closely at the film. It’s written and directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, the two guys who wrote “The Hangover” and it continues the joyful female habitation of raunchy slob comedy that hit a couple of major peaks with “Bridesmaids” and “Trainwreck.” Its raunchiest moment is when Kathryn Hahn, having the time of her acting life as Carla, the sex-prowling single mother of the three, ingeniously demonstrates the finer points of private male anatomy by using Kristen Bell’s hooded sweatshirt.
There’s a flash of female nudity when our heroine Amy (Mila Kunis) discovers her husband in the middle of an erotic Skype session with a “girlfriend” many miles away.
You don’t want to look too closely at this movie because if you stay at a nice audience distance from it, it has an admirably funny take on a good comic idea.
The clever idea is that modern parenting styles have become so smotheringly close and saturated with worry that both parents and children are in danger of becoming neurotic, raging cases of anxiety.
Amy makes her son’s science project for him and makes her two kids’ breakfast every morning. Her 12-year old daughter is in a panic that she won’t make the soccer team and if she doesn’t she won’t get into a good college. And if she doesn’t she says, in a good line “my life will be ruined. I might as well become a teacher.”
Amy herself works for a coffee company where her co-workers are so young they play pingpong all day and assume Amy to be part of “The Greatest Generation.” (She’s 32.)
Her new friend Kiki (Kristen Bell) has four kids and a husband who has successfully insisted that his wife iron his undershorts.
These are working mothers caught up in an anxiety machine so pitiless that it’s no wonder they yearn to go “bad.” They don’t exactly start a meth lab. Instead, they do some massive boozing and public misbehaving. (Amy, for instance, starts driving her husband’s much-babied muscle car.)
The antagonists of the “Bad Moms” are the putative “good moms” – the core mothers of the PTA who are authoritarian bores and worse. They’re played by Christina Applegate, Jada Pinkett Smith and Annie Mumolo.
I am a huge fan of most of this cast. I’ve always thought Kunis a major talent – a drop-dead beauty who loves doing knockabout slapstick. Bell playing Veronica Mars was one of the wittiest joys of contemporary television. And Hahn has been a sure thing breakout actress waiting patiently for a sure thing breakout role.
Well, it just arrived if you ask me. She’s irresistible as the loud, crude, sexually rapacious single mother – a role 180 degrees away from what she usually plays. She out-Melissa McCarthys Melissa McCarthy. Bell isn’t as lucky. She’s a bit wasted but there will never be a role in which she isn’t good news in any cast list.
It never comes close to being as wild as it promises but it makes its points about crazed parenting anxieties clearly (at one point the movie is helped by Martha Stewart showing up and urging everyone to do therapeutic Jell-O shots. She explains that she herself starts out every morning with six of them.)
Whatever you do, stay for the closing credits. They’re the best thing in the entire movie – a delightful surprise in which a mildly formulaic raunch comedy allowed loose, baggy, wholly unpredictable reality to seal the deal completely.