BAD MOMS (Entertainment Film Distributors/STX)
Dir, Script. Jon Lucas & Scott Moore
Cast: Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Annie Mumolo with Jada Pinkett Smith and Christina Applegate
Plot: Burnt out by the pressures of mumhood, Amy (Kunis) attempts a new approach.
Bad Moms, from my being frequently being subjected to the trailer while reviewing other films this year, looked like a ‘Woman’s Hangover‘ to me. Not only did I see enough ridiculous partying and general craziness to give Neighbourhood Watch organisations across the world aneurysms, but Bad Moms also comes from the minds who brought about the Hangover trilogy in the first place, Jon Lucas & Scott Moore. And while that’s on the money for the most part, it would probably be harsh not to say that there’s a bit more going on here – Bad Moms will simultaneously make you wish for all manner of UN-banned torture techniques rather than drive your daughter to football (that most typical, factually inaccurate American stereotype), as well as making you crave a small, cute-looking miniature you to piss you off at every opportunity. And it’s actually quite sharply written as well.
But then I realize that films, the premier visual art medium, actually have to be watched, and writers-by-trade Lucas and Moore are clearly not as talented with cameras. The duo directed 21 & Over as well, and there’s barely any difference between the two movies style-wise – its loud, edited into spaghetti, and almost entirely in random slow-motion (ironically incorporated to show spaghetti flying into Mila Kunis’s face). There’s enough slow-motion here to make Zach Snyder cum in the theatre. It’s constant to the point that the rest of the movie feels on fast-forward; it’s used to good effect, but it only works 10% of the time. Lucas & Moore need to go to ODA (Overindulgent Directors Anonymous), along with Snyder, James DeMonaco, Guy Ritchie, Michael Bay with Quentin ‘I’m still overindulgent as hell but my movies are actually decent’ Tarantino as the chairman. But while the whole slow-motion gimmick is kind of tolerable, the editing around it is a visual assault. Comedies recently have been prone to letting their editors run amok with house party footage, but Bad Moms let the editors turn the film into a confetti gun, then put that confetti inside another confetti gun, fired it again, and sent the audience in assumptively to retrieve and piece together whatever remains. Point is, it hurts your eyes and your brain for good measure.
Fortunately, the actors are game enough to carry you through it and leave your heart relatively warm. Kunis is the strongest player here, and although her character has no depth whatsoever (and that’s true for pretty much everyone I might add) Kunis has fun with her role. While her character, the constantly stressed Amy, desperately tries to be a perfect mother and yet is met with disappointment from almost everybody she tries to be nice to, Kunis fits it well and anchors this comedy strongly. Christina Applegate is also a strong watch as a kind of mother-from-hell who chairs the school’s parents group, and attacks its dissenters, like Hitler did the SA before he decided it was no longer needed. The support cast have had better performances – Kristen Bell kind of blends in to the background, although she has her moments, Kathryn Hahn plays slutty and offers nothing else, and Applegate’s cronies Mumolo and Pinkett Smith have literally nothing to do besides concur with their chief. The main issue is that there’s just not enough depth here – while the writing is sharper than you might expect, and the jokes are fleetingly decent, the characters are pretty empty, and shot as if a wildlife team is trying to follow an insect in the shrubbery from 5 miles away with their zoom settings broken. I think there’s enough in Bad Moms for you to passively enjoy it and leave the cinema content, immediately forgetting what you’ve seen afterwards – but if you aren’t a fan of slow-motion slapstick, unmotivated house parties and an editing style that should come with its own health and safety manual, then I suggest holding from the cinema.