I don’t need my comedies to be raunchy, but still, Bad Moms should be raunchier. It’s directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, the writing duo behind The Hangover trilogy. And you can tell that it thinks that it’s being pretty racy by having its stars talk about dicks and how stupid their kids are, but the fact that these characters are moms keeps them on a pedestal above the gender equal floor o’ filth. I mean these are the guys that had Ed Helms anally penetrated by a Thai transvestite prostitute and ejaculate onto the concrete for chrissakes! The worst that these “Bad Moms” do is go on a drunken supermarket shopping spree of weird items and pay for everything like good citizens! You can have Kathryn Hahn drop as many curse words as humanly possible but this movie still has an Oedipus complex, and is palpably careful to avoid offending anyone’s mom. Which is too bad because you can tell that Hahn, Kristen Bell and Mila Kunis are down for whatever.
Kunis’ Amy feels like she’s a bad mom because the PTA queen bee, Gwen (Christina Applegate) and her hive of followers (think Mean Moms), require so many meetings about the most mundane things. Amy is a working mom who makes all of her kids’ breakfast and lunches, takes them to school, works her sales job at a hipster coffee roaster, then is late picking up her kids or going to a PTA meeting, cooks a meal for her family, and… starting to sound like that Sarah Jessica Parker rom-com I Don’t Know How She Does It? It is. Until Amy catches her worthless husband masturbating to a webcam.
After Amy kicks her husband out of the house, Gwen calls an emergency PTA meeting to list all the ingredients that aren’t allowed in a bake sale and puts Amy in charge of being the PTA police because she arrived late, Amy says no way, she’s just gonna be a bad mom. She runs into Carla (Hahn) at a bar nearby and then Kiki (Bell) arrives to tell her that her “fuck off” speech to Gwen was inspiring, so they order a bottle of scotch for each other and then disturb a supermarket. A “bad moms” revolution then sweeps the bougie suburb of Chicago and that means that Amy is out trying to get laid for the first time with someone other than her husband since the age of 20. So Carla and Kiki offer their learned sex advice.
The sex advice section is perhaps the funniest section of Bad Moms. Hahn uses Bell’s pink hoodie and Bell’s rosy face to describe various things that can be done to a penis. However, what makes this scene funny isn’t what Hahn’s saying about the shaft or the hood. It’s Bell’s facial contortions while she’s being manhandled by Hahn. It’s one of the few moments where one of the actors gets to perform outside of saying some dirty words in succession. And like the circumcised penis that she is in this scene, Bell blossoms with equal shame and contentment in the re-enactment.
The characters in Moms are frustratingly stock. Carla is a single mom so of course she gets the nastiest lines. Kiki has a husband who literally wants her at home at all times (unsure of who’s choice it is that she wear a necklace that says “MOM”, though). Amy’s husband is a do-nothing doofus. Gwen’s hive wastes Jada Pinkett Smith and reduces Annie Mumolo to a putdown punchline. And Amy’s hipster workplace thinks she’s ancient because she’s 30. There are certainly some laughs in Bad Moms, mostly for how Bell and Hahn play the good mom, bad mom routine (and Bell is consistently a physical foil and she gives it her all), but the message that mom’s are overworked and should be able to have a little fun isn’t enough to push the movie when the characters are not really defined beyond their wardrobe: Amy’s business suit, Kiki’s building blocks necklace, and Carla’s I-wanna-screw-your-husband halter top.
It’s not all bad in Bad Moms, but because the story and insight is lacking, it’s just not bad enough. At the height of their badness they throw a party that the sorority girls in Neighbors 2 would call child’s play. It’s basically just some shots, some whip-its and some dancing. There does seem to be a double standard in badness at play here. The fathers and husbands in The Hangover films, or any film, do not lose any affection from the audience due to how ribald they get or what situations they get themselves into. However, with the exception of Bridesmaids and Bachelorette, a group of women haven’t been offered that comedic studio outlet. It’s clear that that’s how this film was conceived, but because the women themselves had previously conceived there’s a wholesomeness that needs to be maintained at all times.
The worst momism that they collectively do is talk bad about their kids, but then it’s immediately followed with an admission of love for their children. I’m not saying these women should be monsters, but they can be in humorous and off color situations and still love their kids; instead they get a laugh but then take it back. We give men in these types of movies far more allowances. I wish that the men behind The Hangover could also give these talented women some situations that they wouldn’t outright dismiss in a story pitch—for being too simple or too dull—if it were about a bunch of dudes on a weekend bender in Vegas. Because the plot itself doesn’t engage, the gags would be better if they were engorged. But, hey, at the very least we have a mainstream film where a mom tells her son that as a young white man he’s an entitled brat and he better learn how to do things for himself otherwise he’ll grow up a douchebag. And that’s something we never got from The Hangover movies.
Bad Moms is in theaters July 29.