Bad Moms, 2016.
Written and directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore.
Starring Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Christina Applegate, Jada Pinkett Smith and Jay Hernandez.
When three overworked and under-appreciated moms are pushed beyond their limits, they ditch their conventional responsibilities for a jolt of long overdue freedom, fun, and comedic self-indulgence.
The fact that writer-directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore make a conscious effort to state their film’s title in excess of ten times throughout is a key indicator of just how remarkably false it is: an awkward and vapid droid carved from the entrails of the equally dour The Hangover franchise, Bad Moms is so disastrously unfunny and tonally misjudged that every time the leading ladies bellow out their newly-adopted branding, you can’t help but grimace.
Like so many modern comedies, little attention is paid to story and character because we simply don’t need it: the actors are funny enough to do all the work. But here’s the kicker; actors are fundamentally redundant without some form of structure. Even strong improvisational performers such as Tina Fey can struggle without a sense of narrative control.
Bad Moms is virtually an identical replica to the duo’s previous – and largely shambolic – work, with the single twist that females are now playing the generic and biblically annoying R-rated male comedy roles. That’s it. The singular glimmer of ‘originality’ – and that term is used exceptionally lightly. We follow Mila Kunis’ cliched and overworked mom Amy as she struggles to take her children to school, go to work and run a household. Typical first-world problems, but ones which a large percentage of the target audience will likely appreciate.
However the straw which breaks the camel’s back comes in the form of the dreaded PTA Bake Sale (yeah seriously; that is the definitive plot transition on offer here…) which sends her on a path of drinking, partying and self-obsession. Armed with her new buddies Kiki (Kristen Bell); a cookie-cutter housewife who has too many children and too little time, and Carla (Kathryn Hahn); a rowdy single mom whose sole purpose is to say socially relevant and politically incorrect things for 100 minutes. She is basically a walking, twerking Family Guy cut sequence.
You could forgive Bad Moms for being adequate, but considering the talent on offer here, it is unfathomable just how poorly utilised they all are. Kunis, Bell, Hahn and Christina Applegate are some of Hollywood’s most funny and soulful performers. They each offer a promising back catalogue and are largely the core source of elevation in the not-so-good ones too. But here they feel entirely deflated and undervalued.
Hahn in particular has proven herself to be an extremely acute and sharp-witted comic, but her character in Bad Moms is worse than arrogant; it is self-deprecating. Lucas and Moore have just ordered her to do a bad Melissa McCarthy impression, and throw in some bad Seth Rogen for good measure. Every word that falls from her thrashing jaws is as empty as it is teeth-grinding. Here’s an abbreviated but fairly accurate line of dialogue: “Afghanistan, Nazi, Jew, Hitler, Anal Sex, Foreskin, AIDS, Lesbian”.
Even sadder than the truly abysmal prose is the film’s sheer lack of aesthetic vision. It swirls with obnoxious, on-the-nose music choices which are solely designed to sell copies of the Original Soundtrack. A particularly hideous arrival comes in the form of Fifth Harmony’s enthralling lyrical masterpiece “Work From Home” which plays at a thunderous volume as Amy is getting down to it with the sexy and awesome-I’m-so-glad-his-wife-is-dead widower Jessie (Jay Hernandez).
Outbursts of irritation and ugliness also ooze to the surface when the film suddenly slams on the breaks and tries to bring on the feels. Bad Moms makes such a vacant attempt to make us laugh, but to have the audacity to try and make the audience actually care is a step beyond. These characters are repugnant, self-obsessed and futile but now we’re supposed to cry because Amy’s kids think she is a massive liability and waster. Well, she is. The infants actually have a more deft understanding of morality than the entirety of the production, and that speaks dooming volumes.
Comedies have but a single job – to make the viewer laugh – but Lucas and Moore’s film cannot even achieve a moderate chuckle. So inane, inept and downright loathsome is Bad Moms that it’ll remain as a gruesome stain on the filmographies of some seriously talented people. Well, expect for Hernandez; he has pretty much destroyed any fibre of credibility this year. This isn’t just a showcase of unfit parents, this is an entirely unfit film.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★