I’ll be honest; I only saw Bad Moms due to the leftover good will that Mila Kunis and Kristen Bell retain in the wake of Forgetting Sarah Marshall. The trailer, in my mind, was not very funny, at all. And even the above poster is a jumbled, cluttered mess. So, while there have been several instances when I’ve applauded marketing departments for their efforts in getting me and others into the theater on opening weekend, I can’t give the Bad Moms marketing team the same praise. For me, personally, it all came down to stars who have earned my patronage.
Mila Kunis plays Amy, an exhausted wife and mother who just needs a break from her own life. She finds some like-minded friends in Kristen Bell’s Kiki and Kathryn Hahn’s Carla and, from there, we’re off to the races as the three face off against a trio of Mean Moms played by Christina Applegate, Jada Pinkett-Smith, and Annie Mumolo.
There’s actually a lot more to the film than that, but I don’t want to spoil anything. For the second day in a row, I was actually very pleasantly surprised by the film that I watched. While I’m not prepared to put Bad Moms at the level of quality of Forgetting Sarah Marshall (which is my all-time favorite comedy, so that’s not a knock), it’s far funnier than the trailers suggest and a pretty great time at the movies.
The three leads are all terrific and each brings their own unique qualities and vibe to the film. Amy (Kunis) is the closest to being the audience’s anchor – the most “normal” of the bunch, so to speak. Due to getting pregnant at the early age of 20, Amy feels like she missed out on the years where people are supposed to enjoy life and have fun. I found her relatable in that sense because I also feel like I missed out on those years. The difference is that she missed out due to getting pregnant and I missed out because I suck at life. And that’s where my ability to relate to this film ends.
But my ability to enjoy it continues! Kiki (Bell) is the oddball of the group. I’m so, so glad Kristen Bell was chosen for this role because I’ve previously lamented that she typically gets cast in the straight role while everyone around her has the opportunity to be funny. Not this time! Bell is absolutely a joy to watch and is easily my favorite character in the movie. She doesn’t go over the top with it, playing it very quietly and subtly but that makes it twice as funny as the material would be on the page. Her performance as Kiki is restrained, hilarious, and completely unlike any other I’ve seen in a comedy, this year. I imagine that much of her humor will fly right by a lot of people who may be distracted by something else they’re seeing or hearing but I ask you to keep your eyes and ears trained on Kristen Bell in this movie.
Generally speaking, I expect Kathryn Hahn’s Carla to get the most frequent and the biggest laughs from audiences who venture out to see Bad Moms. And, frankly, she deserves them. Carla is the in-your-face, I-don’t-give-a-spit mom and Hahn nails it. She genuinely made me (and everyone else in the theater) laugh out loud on multiple occasions with her absurd, obnoxious, filter-less dialogue. I don’t blame the marketing department for not featuring her funniest moments in the advertising because they simply can’t be put on television or in a green-band trailer. And that’s her appeal. She’s charmingly profane and impossible to dislike.
The three of them together have tremendous chemistry and truly feel like a group of friends. They pick on each other, they joke with each other, and they laugh with each other. That’s a rarity in movies, and it was something I also noticed in Ghostbusters. It seems that, in movies, groups of friends are virtually always portrayed as people who in actuality can’t stand each other but they each tolerate the others because they don’t have anybody else. They don’t appear to actually enjoy each other’s company or have fun. That’s not the case, here, and it’s refreshing. It’s clear why Amy, Kiki, and Carla are friends and it’s equally clear that they truly are friends. This is a truly welcome change of pace that I felt needed to be acknowledged.
While the film never forgets that it’s a comedy, there are enough emotional beats and there is enough heart to give it weight. During the closing credits, there is a nice collection of talking head interviews with the cast and their real-life mothers, with the mothers talking about moments that made them “bad moms” while raising their kids. It’s charming and unique.
There’s also enough going on underneath the surface of the movie that the title Bad Moms, itself, can be interpreted about a half-dozen ways by time the movie is over. I didn’t expect that but, again, I appreciated it. It seems like mothers can never be good enough for people in modern society (for example, the mom of the boy who fell into the gorilla pit, not so long ago) and nothing they do is right. The film centers on this idea all while having fun with it and celebrating motherhood.
If, like me, you were thinking about seeing Bad Moms but were talked out of it by the marketing, I assure you that it’s better than you expect it to be. If you liked the trailer, then rush to your local theater because the actual movie will be the greatest thing you’ve ever seen! If Kathryn Hahn doesn’t make you nearly choke on your drink as she shocks you into a laugh at least two or three times, then you just came in determined to hate it. Kristen Bell gets to show a different side or herself and it makes her even more lovable than she already was. And Mila Kunis takes charge as the lead and reminds us all why being a parent is the toughest, yet most-important, job there will ever be. Put this all together, and Bad Moms is a great time!
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