You’re not looking at the funniest comedy ever made, or even the freshest. But Bad Moms knows its way around a laugh and the women who so need to get their party on. Mila Kunis, always a wonderfully frisky screen presence, tones down her inherent hotness to play Amy, the 32-year-old mother of two kids she burdens with too high expectations, even more than those she sets for herself. Holding down a part-time job at a boutique coffee company, dealing with a husband (David Walton) who pays for Internet sex (and, worse, conversation), and hobbled by a self-induced idea that she’s not doing enough, Amy is ready to implode. She’s also a paradigm for many other overworked moms. That’s the key to what works in this cleverly relatable script by co-directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore. Since these dudes wrote The Hangover, you’re probably wondering what the hell they know about struggling moms living in the Chicago burbs. Surprisingly, more than you think.
For that, you can also thank the lineup of terrific actresses whose fem-power raises the bar on this cinematic lunacy. Sure, formula spreads its evil toxins over the plot setup. But these women on the verge deserve your attention. Besides Kunis, who’s a pleasure from start to finish, there’s a winning Kristen Bell as Kiki, a housewife throwback who tries to corral her four kids while her jerk husband wonders what’s for dinner. The catalyst for the breaking bad of Amy and Kiki is a hellraiser with a hooker wardrobe called Carla. As played by the sensational, scene-stealing Kathryn Hahn, Carla is a divorced mom who truly does neglect her jock son and schools the girls on the virtues of boozing and carousing, especially on a school night. It’s a hoot and then some watching Carla reform the sisters until they grow the metaphorical balls to take on their husbands and their own battered egos.
Amy’s biggest roadblock to enlightenment is Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate), the uptight P.T.A. president who rules the school like Donald Trump in heels. It’s a cliché role, but Applegate fleshes it out with wicked wizardry. Gwendolyn’s breakdown in which she bemoans her charity-embezzling husband, her ISIS recruit of a brother and a DVR that simply won’t record Castle — all equal on her list of horrors — is comic gold. The movie cops out by going soft in the end, but it’s still hardcore hilarity for stressed moms looking for a girls night out. Guys should also check out Bad Moms — you just might learn something.