Cast: Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn, Christina Applegate
Directors: Jon Lucas and Scott Moore
Rating: One-and-a-half stars
SO BAD IT’S TERRIBLE
Stretched, stressed and overworked, a young working mother is undoubtedly a tragic figure. Mila Kunis’ Amy Mitchell has to do it all. She makes breakfast for her children and takes them to school. Her job might be demanding, but she still has to make it to soccer practice and bake sales. Worst of all, she has to make do with a twerp for a husband. Late for almost everything, Amy once tells her irate daughter, “I’m sorry, I’m trying.” Her daughter yells back, “Try harder.” Seeing this 32-year-old loosen these shackles should have been fun. There is, after all, something inherently feministic about a woman rejecting the role of a ‘perfect mom’. Unfortunately, though, Bad Moms is so bad, you forget that any of this ought to have been good. By the end, you feel as knackered as Kunis did.
It takes one horrific day for Amy’s life to change. Her husband, she finds, was philandering online. She kicks him out. She spills hot coffee on herself and unwittingly gets tackled on a football field. Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate), a bully of a mother, gets her to attend a PTA meeting where she is told that wheat and sugar might well be killing her kids. This is the last straw. Over copious glasses of alcohol, she joins Carla (Kathryn Hahn) and Kiki (Kristen Bell) in deciding that they’re now going to be “bad moms”. This involves them trashing a supermarket, not going to work, and yes, drinking yet more alcohol. There’s something a little Wisteria Lane about this film, but it really is Kunis’ Waterloo.
Black Swan (2010) was inarguably an exception. Kunis’ territory is better defined by comedies as Friends with Benefits (2011) and The Angriest Man in Brooklyn (2014). In Bad Moms, you can see her try hard to remain funny, but unfortunately the script she’s been given is such a dampener, not once does she make you chuckle. Written and directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, Bad Moms feels like a tamer and much duller Hangover (Lucas and Moore had scripted that 2009 film too). You see the same slow motion shots of people getting drunk and letting their hair down, but unlike The Hangover, the parties here end at 11. Suburban mothers sadly know when they should call it a night.
The humour in this film is bawdy. Amy, Carla and Kiki discuss bras and the advantages of circumcision, but none of the jokes are really redemptive. Playing a foul-mouthed, oversexed Carla, Kathryn Hahn does own this film, but even her downright ludicrous quips are soon subsumed by the film’s general theme of prudish versus permissive. Amy takes on Gwendolyn and the two bring their respective posses. A PTA election makes for the film’s climax and it wouldn’t even be a spoiler to say that the ‘best’ mom doesn’t win. Modern mothers, burdened by expectation, may undoubtedly find something relatable in Bad Moms, but there’s absolutely nothing here that will bring them any relief.
When Amy’s daughter criticises her parenting, the tirade isn’t contested. It is internalised. In the end, even Carla brings her son a salad. The film preaches a ‘love your kids’ attitude which trumps its ‘be yourself’ logic. I tried hard to find this film funny, but I only laughed when the man sitting behind me in the cinema had this to tell his partner when she asked who had called him – “That was Dawood Ibrahim. I just ordered a hit on the film’s makers. Kya bakwaas picture banate hain aaj kal.”