Kunis, Bell, Hahn Cringe-worthy, Hilarious In ‘Bad Moms’
In its own cheerfully vulgar, cringe-inducing and consistently raunchy way, “Bad Moms” is almost as much of a cartoon as the animated hits still populating the multiplexes this summer. Almost nothing about this movie feels “real,” including the setting. We’re told Mila Kunis’ Amy Mitchell and her family live in a Chicago suburb, but other than a few sweeping overhead establishing shots of the city’s skyline, it’s pretty obvious the film was actually shot somewhere else, i.e., New Orleans. Sure, because New Orleans and Chicago ARE the Twin Cities, so alike in architecture, climate and culture. Ah, but here’s the good news. Written and directed by the team that penned the “Hangover” movies, “Bad Moms” had me laughing out loud even as I was cringing, thanks to some fantastically over-the-top hijinks, crass but hilarious one-liners and terrific performances from Kunis, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn and Christina Applegate. Kunis is funny, sweet and lovely as Amy, married to the charmless lunk Mike (David Walton). This clueless mope is a successful professional (witness their beautiful and spacious home), but he’s an absentee father even before Amy kicks him out of the house for having an online affair. Mike barely pays attention to Amy and their two children: the intense and ultra-serious Jane (Oona Laurence) and little brother Dylan (Emjay Anthony), who is said to have a learning disability, but is more likely just unmotivated and a tad manipulative. Even though Amy was already doing the vast majority of the parenting, with Mike out of the picture, it’s ALL on her. In addition to Amy’s high-pressure job at a gourmet coffee start-up, she has to get the kids ready for school, make their lunches, drive them to and from various extracurricular activities, help them with their homework, attend soccer games, tend to their every need, discipline them, counsel them, nurture them and throw herself into a hundred other motherly duties, cuz that’s what moms do. It’s overwhelming. It’s too much. (Yes, given the family’s income, Amy could easily hire a nanny or perhaps enlist the help of adult family members, but as we’ve said, this ain’t a documentary.) Christina Applegate’s Gwendolyn is the Wicked Witch of the Western Suburbs, the wealthy, judgmental and all-powerful head of the PTA, which, in the universe of “Bad Moms,” controls virtually every element of the education system, from the hiring and firing of teachers and coaches to the social lives of the students and which kids are in the starting lineup for the soccer team. Everyone is terrified of Gwendolyn, including Amy — until Amy has a particularly terrible day and she simply can’t take it anymore. She explodes at Gwendolyn in front of the entire community, quits the PTA, declares herself a “bad mom” and decides to give herself a break, have a little fun and ground the helicopter parenting for a while. Joining Amy in the impromptu bad moms club: Kristen Bell’s Kiki, a shy social outcast with four children at home and a husband who treats her like hired help, if you were the kind of person who was dismissive and unappreciative of the hired help, and Kathryn Hahn’s Carla, a sexually voracious single mom who wears far too much makeup and tight jeans, hits on practically all the married dads, parties hard and truly seems to not give a flying leap about what anyone in this uptight community thinks of her. Amy, Kiki and Carla go on a suburban mom bender. They eat junk food, they hit the spa, they pound down drinks, they bond over mommy war stories. They get dolled up and hit the town so Amy can meet a man — and who should show up at the bar but Jay Hernandez’ Jesse, a gorgeous widower who confesses he’s had a crush on Amy from afar for a long time now. How convenient! “Bad Moms” is big on the wacky montages and the slo-mo shots of Amy, Kiki and Carla going wild. At times it feels as if everyone is stretching to make this a feature-length film. (Although I was thinking it could be adapted into a decent half-hour comedy series.) PTA prez Gwendolyn is about as subtle as Dean Wormer as a villain, and her campaign against Amy (who decides to run against her in the conveniently imminent election) is brutal, cruel and literally felonious. Meanwhile, the school soccer coach (none other than football great J.J. Watt, who’s actually pretty funny), Amy’s shallow, sexist boss (Clark Duke) and the aforementioned soon-to-be-ex-husband Mike are all caricatures who are so dumb it’s a wonder they can tie their shoes in the morning and find their way through the day. The sex talk is frank and then beyond frank. (This movie is NOT first-date material. It’s also not “take your mom” material, unless your mom is Kris Jenner.) Some of the dialogue is shocking for shock’s sake, but much of it is clever and even insightful, albeit on a broad level. Something tells me a lot of good moms will find some real truths contained within the bawdy antics of “Bad Moms.” RICHARD ROEPER reviews movies for The Chicago Sun-Times. Distributed by Universal Press Syndicate.