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Bad Moms

by PIERS MARCHANT Special to the Democrat-Gazette | July 29, 2016 at 1:49 a.m.
Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate) is the too-perfect PTA president who makes life more difficult for a stressed-out, newly-single mother in Bad Moms.

As I've written before, it has to be seen as something akin to progress that a ribald female-centric comedy can open wide in this day and age without anyone batting an eye. In the vast cultural desert that came before Bridesmaids proved to a disbelieving Hollywood that such a vehicle could not only exist, but also make bank, such a film would have been surely seen as a heresy. Unfortunately, that fact alone is not enough to keep this sloppy encrusted marshmallow of a comedy from being so slapdash and inconsistent. We may have come a long way, baby, but we clearly still have a long way to go.

In Bad Moms, we meet beleaguered Amy (Mila Kunis) on what might be the single worst day of her life: Dropping off her thoroughly disgruntled and stressed-out kids to school en route to work, she is informed by Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate), the horrific PTA president, of an emergency meeting she is required to attend. She goes on to work, where her boss (Clark Duke), a weaselly millennial coffee mogul whose business entirely depends on his delegating everything possible to her, loads up her schedule even further. She picks up the kids, angry at her for being late, flies home, makes dinner for everyone, and cleans up, only to discover her shlubby husband (David Walton) has been conducting an online affair with a woman on the other side of the country. Add to this combustible mix her face getting scalded with coffee, her spaghetti lunch flying into her hair from trying to eat while driving, a brutal spill on the soccer field when she is upended by an errant child, while trying to talk to the team's coach (NFL beast J.J. Watt) about her daughter's progress, and the general stress of trying to balance everything out in her life in order to make it through another agonizing day.

Bad Moms

78 Cast: Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn, Kristen Bell, Christina Applegate, Jada Pinkett Smith, Annie Mumolo, David Walton, Clark Duke

Directors: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore

Rating: R, for sexual material, full frontal nudity, language throughout, and drug and alcohol content

Running time: 101 minutes

By the time she finally makes the PTA emergency meeting -- a chance for the prim Gwendolyn to remind all the frantic, miserable moms that the goodies for the forthcoming bake sale cannot contain nuts, wheat, cocoa, butter, cream or sugar -- she's utterly fed up. When called upon to head the bake sale's strict dietary enforcement policies, she is pushed to finally say the single word every mom in the place must have longed to utter: No. The repercussions of this insurrection are felt far and wide. Later that night, she runs into a pair of fellow moms, mousy stay-at-home Kiki (Kristen Bell), and brazen, vulgar Carla (Kathryn Hahn), and the three bond amid a swirl of alcohol and a drunken supermarket shopping binge that results in them storming the place, boozing up and down the aisles, and pouring torn-open bags of cereal into each other's gaping mouths.

Realizing she's on to something, Amy immediately starts reforming her life. She kicks her dopey husband out, leaves the kids to fend for their own breakfast, plays hooky from her job, and convinces the other two women to join her for a matinee. What starts as a breaking point becomes an entirely new lifestyle, which, in the manner of all such comedies, comes at very little personal cost. Before long, Amy's embarking on an affair with Jessie (Jay Hernandez), the gorgeous widower every other mom at the school is secretly pining for, enjoys an extended work furlough, decides to overthrow Gwendolyn and run for PTA president, and suddenly has a new pair of best friends with whom to share all her comic misadventures.

For as much of the film's jokes that fall flat -- a particularly unappealing bit with the ongoing befuddlement of one of Gwendolyn's heavyset lieutenants (Annie Mumolo) played to a stifling silence at the screening I attended -- it gets yet another break-out performance from Hahn, who plays the unfiltered, horn-dog divorcee, and Bell, whose clear-eyed manias are many of the film's best moments in the early going ("Everything that comes out of your mouth is a cry for help," Carla tells her). The early grocery rampage shows just a smidgen of anarchic promise, but after the film settles in to its story, it's happy enough to fall into a tepid bath of cliches and too-easily settled disputes, as with Amy's marriage, which conveniently dissolves without a moment of rancor or regret.

The film works very hard to portray Kunis as just an everyday, average, under siege mother -- klutzy, fallible and often fragile -- but despite every effort to make her look disheveled and delirious, we are never unaware that she's a ravishing Hollywood beauty, the face of cosmetic campaigns, and the fever-dream fantasy of a goodly percentage of hetero men in this country. In giving women a heroine to free them from the tyranny of perfection and grace, directors and co-writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore give us a stunningly beautiful actress who is known for her sexy desirability and impossibly shiny hair.

MovieStyle on 07/29/2016

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