From mall Santas, to school teachers, to spelling bee contestants, Hollywood has a penchant for bringing out the worst in people we don’t normally associate with bad behavior. But while the premise behind “Bad Moms” is certainly ripe for comedy, as is usually the case with these films, it’s not lewd enough to justify its title. “Bad Moms” is an R-rated raunch-com that’s surprisingly short on both raunch and comedy. In fact, apart from its countless F-bombs (because apparently, nothing says “bad” quite like grown women cursing), it’s really a PG-13 movie at heart, failing to push the boundaries as far as you’d expect from the guys who wrote “The Hangover.” The film sorely lacks the insight that a female voice would offer.
Amy Mitchell (Mila Kunis) is sick and tired of trying to be the perfect mom. When she’s not being overworked at her part-time job, she’s busy maintaining her household and driving her two kids (Oona Laurence and Emjay Anthony) back and forth between school and their various extracurricular activities. Her slacker husband (David Walton) is practically a child himself, and after Amy catches him cheating with another woman over the internet, she promptly kicks him out of the house. The next day, everything that can go wrong does, causing Amy to finally crack under the pressure during a late-night PTA meeting. In the aftermath of her meltdown, she befriends two fellow mothers who share her frustration – bawdy single mom Carla (Kathryn Hahn) and docile stay-at-home mom Kiki (Kristen Bell) – and together, they agree to be bad moms for once and have a little fun. But when Amy’s antics make an enemy of uptight PTA overlord Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate), she decides to challenge her presidency and alter the status quo.
Thankfully, “Bad Moms” doesn’t take the easy and predictable route of devolving into a prank war between the two women à la “Neighbors,” even if that arguably would have been more entertaining than what writers/directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore deliver instead. It’s just not very funny, and that’s largely because everything is cranked up to 11 from the start, leaving no room for subtlety or escalating stakes. The film is also wildly unrealistic (an annoying trend in comedies these days), from the cartoonish characters, to the ridiculous level of power that Gwendolyn’s PTA position somehow affords her. Worse yet, although Applegate’s queen bee is the true bad mom of the story, even she gets a redemption of sorts in the form of a pathetic excuse for her deplorable behavior. It makes you long for the days when a villain could just be a villain.
The movie isn’t a complete letdown. When it focuses on the humor found in everyday situations (like talking shit behind your kid’s back) or showcases its protagonists behaving badly (like the supermarket and house party montages), it can be quite fun, but there aren’t enough of these moments to make up for the dry spells that occur in between. Additionally, while the three leads have great chemistry, Hahn and Bell are stuck in such one-dimensional roles that they’re treated more like party favors than actual characters. The trio makes the film a lot more watchable than it deserves to be, but between the flawed script and shortage of laughs, not to mention its flippant attitude towards dads in general (there’s only one decent father figure in the entire story, and he’s a hunky widower who’s applauded more for his physique than his parenting skills), “Bad Moms” fails to make good on its potential.