Film & Television

Movie Review: Motherhood Takes a Holiday in ‘Bad Moms’

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The movie’s villain is the conniving Gwendolyn, who rules the PTA (and the school) with an iron fist. Christina Applegate, another TV teen (1987-1997’s Married . . .  with Children) who has successfully transitioned to the big screen, is delicious as Gwendolyn. Unwilling to relinquish her rule to a bunch of “bad moms,” she stops at nothing, exacting truly evil revenge by attacking Amy where it hurts most, her kids. She’s also flanked by a couple of accomplices, played icily by Jada Pinkett Smith and rather dazedly by Annie Mumolo. As a mother myself, I personally related to the concept of vilifying the super moms. My town, like so many similar ones, has its share of holier-than-thou, Whole Foods-shopping mothers. (My daughter lived on chicken nuggets and boxed macaroni and cheese for three years. So sue me.)

Meanwhile, the men in Bad Moms are fairly incidental. Amy throws out her ne’er do well husband when she catches him having live internet sex. “Do you have feelings for her?” she gasps. “It’s been ten months. Of course, I have feelings for her,” he replies, “What kind of guy do you think I am?” Her young boss, a coffee entrepreneur, spouts trendy business platitudes but is helpless without her. Both her daughter’s soccer coach and the school’s principal are cowed by Gwendolyn. A sexy widower dad is more eye-candy than character.  And, even Amy’s daughter (the compelling young Oona Laurence) is given a more interesting role than her son.

Should every comedy be so unapologetically female-centric? Of course not. But, can we celebrate when one is? You betcha.

Unfortunately, Bad Moms isn’t a complete victory for feminists. It’s written and directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (co-screenwriters for the $277 million megahit The Hangover), and while the plight of the moms is fun and funny, it’s two-dimensional; it lacks any real depth or genuine soul-searching. The women’s issues are oversimplified. Plus, in an effort to compete with (or at least share the plunder of) such bawdy comedies as Hangover and Bridesmaids, Bad Moms is more off-color than it needs to be. All the mothers, “good” and “bad” use language that would make a sailor blush. (Is there some new Hollywood profanity clause that pays screenwriters extra for every F-bomb? If so, Lucas and Moore are rich, rich, rich.) And, there are also countless references to “dicks” and “cocks.” One particularly cringe-worthy sequence has Carla demonstrating how to handle an uncircumcised penis by using the hapless Kiki as the organ and her hoodie as the . . . well . . .  hood.

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So, back to my original question. (Not the one about the air conditioner; the other one.) Is Bad Moms bad? The story’s unsurprising; the script isn’t great. The humor is at times sophomoric; the obscenity unnecessary. Yet, I found myself laughing — out loud — more than once, and everyone at my matinee thoroughly enjoyed themselves, and not just because of the pinot grigio.

For better or worse, Bad Moms does tap into genuine feelings and experience. These days, there is tremendous pressure to be a perfect mother. But, try as we may, it’s an impossible goal. Sometimes you have to give up, fight back, or just sit back and laugh.

Or, you can always drink cheap wine.

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