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  Bad Moms Parental Misguidance
Year: 2016
Director: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
Stars: Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn, Kristen Bell, Christina Applegate, Jada Pinkett Smith, Annie Mumolo, Oona Lawrence, Emjay Anthony, David Walton, Clark Duke, Jay Hernandez, Wendell Pierce, Leah McKendrick, Megan Ferguson, Lyle Brocato, Wanda Sykes
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Amy Mitchell (Mila Kunis) is a modern mother who has to juggle no end of activities and responsibilities to keep her family happy, be that making sure her two kids get breakfasted and to school on time, attend to the grocery shopping (every day), sustain a job that is only supposed to be part time yet because she basically runs the whole thing instead of her boss she has to be in the office every day, make sure her layabout husband Mike (David Walton) is happy, and so on. She does not know how she does it, and when she compares herself to a ruthlessly efficient mother like Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate) she feels she is lacking, but she is doing the best she can and that is not good enough...

Or is it? Much of Bad Moms was about accepting the ideal of the perfect parent was one you could lose your mind pursuing, and Amy finds a better way that constitutes a rebellion of sorts when she realises that her happiness can make others in her life happy as well. This was the brainchild of writers and directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who were best known for scripting the trilogy of determinedly male-oriented Hangover movies, so whether they were getting in touch with their feminine side or were seeking atonement for a franchise that did not perhaps empathise with women as much as it could have done, they were rewarded with something of a sleeper hit, one that picked up decent word of mouth.

The target audience was all there in the title, but not everyone got the joke, which was a series of bad taste gags on the theme of irresponsibility, but to few people's surprise wound up demonstrating a softer centre than it might have admitted to until the very last act. What was positive was its sense of inclusion, that acknowledgement that being a mother was no walk in the park, though the film was consciously pointing out the rewards outweighed the drawbacks lest there be a swathe of kids put up for adoption around about the time the credits rolled. It was a nice lead role for Kunis who was perhaps more comfortable with comedy that straight ahead drama, and she had fine support from the almost all-female cast.

The first twenty minutes or so were actually largely laugh-free, and this soured the experience for a number of moviegoers who ended up not responding favourably for the rest of the story, but this establishing of precisely how stressed Amy is was valuable for the consequences later on when she finally lets her hair down. Indeed, there was a lot of anxiety in watching her struggle to be normal and sustain that for her family, so when she catches her husband having webcam sex with a woman from across the country, it is the starting point for her to think about herself for a change. Just as charity begins at home, giving Amy a chance to be Amy and not run around after everyone else will improve her quality of life and that of her kids, I mean, when the movie begins they cannot even make their own breakfast or do their own homework (!).

These are not toddlers, these are kids nearly reaching teenage, so you may think it's about time they started helping out, though the daughter in particular is such a scrunched up ball of anxiety that it provided the opportunity to reflect on the drive for perfection in the average family that merely bred a generation of fuck-ups who had no sense of perspective. Or at least, that was the dire warning Bad Moms presented, though it had a lot on its plate, with Amy's twentysomething colleagues useless to a man and woman, which put her in the parental role once again, it was as if she could not escape it. When she makes friends with Kathryn Hahn's party hard single mother and Kristen Bell's under the thumb homemaker it's a revelation to all three that they do not need to be flawless to be good parents: if nothing else, it gives a good anecdote or three to the kids when they grow up (the credits sequence with the stars reminiscing delivers a great one about Applegate's mother's Al Pacino fandom). The PTA rivalry was a fair narrative to hang all this on, but it was less spiky than you might expect, in spite of the coarse material it showed its true colours when it concluded on a series of hugs. Music by Christopher Lennertz (amid a ton of pop records).
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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