Comedy is one of the toughest genres to nail. A comedy film’s success hinges entirely on one of the most subjective notions of all time: what is funny? Can something be universally funny? Is there an objective way to measure humor? I, for one, don’t think so.
I find this makes reviewing comedy easier than any other genre save horror–while one’s enjoyment of any film is bound to be a subjective experience, one’s enjoyment of a comedy is ten times as subjective. Was the movie edited well? Doesn’t really matter for a comedy. How was the directing style? Who gives a shit. All that matters is, Was it funny? Did it tell a good story? Did you laugh?
Bad Moms is funny, of that I am certain. Mila Kunis has emerged, in my mind, as one of the best comedic actresses in the last decade or so. She has excellent comic timing and a really strong sense of wit and energy. I haven’t found her this enjoyable in a movie since Forgetting Sarah Marshall (my favorite comedy of all time).
Kunis plays Amy Mitchell, a mother of two children who is over-worked, over-stressed, and very, very exhausted. Kunis nails the role. She really sells some of the physical humor, like when a bowl of spaghetti flies all over her. Mila Kunis also has a real gift often overlooked by the industry: she really knows how to deliver a good “fuck.” Too often some of these actors are asked to throw “fuck” around every other sentence in these types of movies and it rings so false. Some of this has to do with the writing–who the hell actually uses “fuck” so often? But much of it has to do with the delivery. I find Kunis has a real ear for it and delivers her “fuck”s very naturally. You may laugh at my analysis of this, but I’m telling you, a hollow or false sounding “fuck” can truly ruin a good joke or a serious moment.
Amusingly for me, Bad Moms reunites Kunis with her Forgetting Sarah Marshall costar, Kristen Bell. Bell is funny in a different way than Kunis–she’s kind of like a firecracker, sparks of humor kind of emanating and then exploding from her. (Unlike Kunis, Bell is not great at throwing around “fuck”; in fact, there’s a moment at the end where she uses it in a moment of triumph and her delivery kind of ruins it for me.) Bell plays a weirdo and does good work in giving awkward anecdotes.
Kathryn Hahn plays the promiscuous single mom whose character borders on caricature; regardless, she gets big laughs throughout the movie. Hahn swings the most broadly with her performance, playing unhinged, horny, and compassionate all at once.
The villain of the film is Christina Applegate’s Gwendolyn, a rich bitch who’s got the whole school administration and local moms (including an underutilized Jada Pinkett-Smith) under her thumb. The film centers on Amy’s decision to run against her in the upcoming election for the presidency of the PTA.
Bad Moms fits smugly in the slobs-vs-snobs subgenre of comedy, hitting all the beats expected for a feel good film like this. I was surprised by the amount of social commentary the film decides to preach about parenting, school norms, societal pressure on children, and college demands. Ultimately, much of that falls flat; it sticks out like a sore thumb in a film that has Hahn making out with two women at once while Kunis and Bell get wrecked as “Hey Mama” blasts over the scene. (While on the subject, I can think of few moments in recent cinema that so effectively used a modern pop song. Hearing Nicki Minaj rapping, “Yes I do the cooking, yes I do the cleaning,” during the big mom party scenes was very clever; almost too clever.)
Unfortunately for me, Bad Moms really pushes the idea of its feel-good-movie-vibe too far. The movie feels edgy for much of its runtime, even revolutionary at times (this is a vulgar R-rated comedy starring an ensemble of funny women!), but the ending wraps things up a little too nicely for my taste.
In the end, though, all I really wanted from Bad Moms was to unwind for an hour and a half and laugh a bit; in this regard, it did not disappoint.