[Screen It]


(2016) (Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn) (R)

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Comedy: A harried mom reaches the breaking point and, with the help of her two new friends and fellow moms, decides to take on the dictator-like president of the PTA.
Amy Mitchell (MILA KUNIS) is a thirty-something mom who's stretched in too many directions with too many demands. She tries to do the best for her young kids, Jane (OONA LAURENCE) and Dylan (EMJAY SLAUGHTER), but her deadbeat husband, Mike (DAVID WALTON), isn't much help. Things aren't much better at work where she does sales for a coffee company and everyone, including her boss, Dale (CLARK DUKE), is much younger than her. It doesn't help that the president of the middle school PTA, Gwendolyn (CHRISTINA APPLEGATE), seems to be a perfect and ultra rich mom who looks down on the likes of Amy with her equally condescending mom friends, Stacy (JADA PINKETT SMITH) and Vicky (ANNIE MUMOLO).

When Amy finally stands up to Gwendolyn's dictator-like ways, she gains the admiration of fellow harried mom Kiki (KRISTEN BELL) and wild divorced mom, Carla (KATHRYN HAHN). Despite their difference, the three become fast friends, with Carla trying to help fix up Amy with hunky dad widower Jessie (JAY HERNANDEZ), what with Amy having kicked out her husband for having an online affair. But Amy must contend with Gwendolyn's displeasure of her one-woman rule being disrespected, all of which leads to Gwendolyn trying to destroy her, especially after Amy decides she's going to run for president of the PTA against her.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
Although there are obviously exceptions to the rule, for the most part, mothers do the vast majority of the rearing of offspring in the animal world. Once males have done their part on the propagation side, most are then relegated to hunting or protecting their mate and their little ones from predators and less savory elements of their own species. Those are obviously important to their continuation, but the moms are left with the rest.

Perhaps it's due to those natural connections, but human mothers have pretty much fallen in line since they first roamed Earth. In fact, that was the case through my generation, which is probably the last where most of the moms stayed at home to raise the kids while the dads went off to work.

While that scenario still exists, it's changed for most families where both parents work in order to provide for the family and their future. Yet, many of those mothers are still expected to do the lion's share of child-rearing, all while balancing everything that comes with the territory. That, work demands and kids' extracurricular activities that, in my opinion, have gotten way out of hand, thus make many a mom busier than an Uber driver.

Throw in self-beliefs and societal pressures to be a so-called "perfect mom" in appearance, multi-tasking and raising perfect kids and the fuse is obviously lit for something or someone to blow. That's the jumping off point for "Bad Moms," a comedy that's something of a kissing cousin to 2014's "Mom's Night Out." Yet, while they share some similarities revolving around stressed out moms, "MNO" was a mostly safe Christian comedy while this offering -- from writers/directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore -- is a decidedly risqué, raunchy, ribald and hard R-rated film.

In it, Mila Kunis plays a 32-year-old woman married to a deadbeat husband (David Walton) who has little to do with the raising of their two young kids (played by Oona Laurence and Emjay Anthony). After all, he's busy having an online fling with another woman across the country, all of which results in Amy kicking Mike out of the house. The only problem is that means she has to pick up the slack of which little parenting her husband did, all of which means even more is added to her daily pile of responsibilities.

When she attends an "emergency" PTA meeting called by the middle school PTA president (Christina Applegate) and hears the long list of ingredients that can't be used in the upcoming bake sale, she finally snaps and stands up to the school tyrant. That puts her in the crosshairs of rich "perfect mom" Gwendolyn who decides she's going to crush this non-conformist.

But Amy doesn't care and while drowning her harried sorrows she meets and instantly befriends two other moms (Katherine Hahn playing a wild divorcee and Kristen Bell a mousier woman with a pack of kids at home). The three become fast friends who decide to cut loose, with Amy then deciding to take up figurative arms to fight for other mothers tired of likewise trying to be perfect. The rest of the film has her deciding to run against the PTA dictator, all while finding herself attracted to the town widower (Jay Hernandez) and having to get back into the dating game for the first time since her teens.

The film easily could have derailed following this plotline. All involved could have tried to go all out in emulating the likes of "Bridesmaids" and other films of its ilk in showing the ladies can get down and dirty just as easily as the men do in comedies. It might have also gotten too preachy in its "you don't have to be perfect" message, or too schmaltzy and touchy-feely.

To be accurate, it possesses elements of all of those things, but the filmmakers do a decent job of balancing them (if tilted toward the risqué) and deliver an often outrageous and entertaining (if decidedly adult) comedy that also has heart. It also touches on entitled kids whose parents do everything for them (a big issue of mine) and the protagonist's decision to nip that weed before it takes over the garden.

If there's any downside, it's that the plot that moves the story along isn't particularly creative, sometimes borders on being too predictable, and features supporting characters who are broadly written and played rather than finely or imaginatively nuanced. Thankfully, none of that's egregiously troublesome, and Kunis nicely grounds everything in the lead.

But it does likely mean that many viewers -- if this is their cinematic cup of tea -- might enjoy the film more in the "turn off the brain and go along for the ride" moment rather than in retrospective and more critical hindsight. That's certainly the case for yours truly where I found it funny and entertaining as it unfolded, but have a feeling a second viewing might elicit a less favorable response. So, "Bad Moms," that's never trying to be perfect, ends up in the middle, scoring a 5 out of 10.

Reviewed July 21, 2016 / Posted July 29, 2016

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