Party Like a Mother
One of the most difficult aspects of parenthood is that pretty much everybody knows how to get it wrong. Starve a kid of love and affection, constantly criticism them, and offer material nourishment with not values. That’s the recipe for a sociopath who may or may not end up violent but will be maladjusted. Of course that’s not a huge deal, as most parents try their best to avoid that particular fate. The real problem is that once a minimum threshold of warmth, affection, and support has been reached, no one has a solid idea what to do from there. Questions about breastfeeding, diaper training, reading and bed time are all up for grabs once your kid is getting enough hugs and food. Because it’s so high-stakes, however, people want to judge parents on everything from how they prepare their kids’ lunch to whether working while a parent is a good idea. This contemporary craziness is the backdrop for Bad Moms, a comedy that takes on the contemporary obsession with perfection in parenting to surprisingly fun results.
Amy (Mila Kunis, Black Swan) is a mom who’s trying to do it all. She’s got two kids in middle school, a job several days a week, and she keeps the household together because her husband (David Walton, New Girl) is a bit of a loser. When she catches her husband cheating, Amy has to take over all the care for her kids, just as the PTA efforts to shame her for not devoting 100% of her life to her kids are at an all-time high. Amy teams with a mom of several kids (Kristen Bell, Frozen) and the outcast mom of an older boy (Kathryn Han, Transparent) to be “bad moms” and stage a coup against the leader of the PTA (Christina Applegate, Married with Children).
Bad Moms starts out as a kind of contemporary satire, starting from the premise that mothers have to be perfect, which is unattainable, while their husbands get away with just about anything. This is largely true enough, and a feeling that a lot of working moms can relate to, but Bad Moms has a slightly different agenda.
Half of Bad Moms is dedicated to Amy and her two friends living it up as suddenly responsibility-free parental units. The highlight, seen in the trailer, features the trio attacking a grocery store in a fit of “we can do anything” sentiment. Though that’s the “low point” of their interaction, the trio quickly realize that when they let their parenting slip a little their kids lives don’t fall apart. This leads the three women to reconsider their parenting. Of course this is filled with a number of comedic scenes as husbands and children accommodate themselves to the new reality where not everything will be done for them.
The other half of the film is a reminder that, when it comes to parenting, nobody really knows what they’re doing. Sure, some moms fake like their whole world is perfect and their children are angels, but that’s a fiction. Bad Moms, through the PTA election subplot, makes it clear that no one really knows the perfect way to raise a kid, and that will be a comfort to a lot viewers.
These two threads are united through a series of formulaic plot machinations, from Amy’s initial discovery that she can’t really “do it all” to her eventual decision to run for PTA president, with the attendant fallout for her and her family. The combination of a timely message (of parental difficulty) with a more formulaic plot keep the film riding on rails towards the inevitable conclusions.
Though many will appreciate the film’s message of motherly concern, the film should appeal to everyone because the cast is so perfect. Mila Kunis is great as the mother who seems to have it all but is really struggling to balance things. We’ve already got a vision of Mila Kunis as a kind of “cool girl,” and when she struggles it’s both believable and sympathetic. Kristen Bell channels her most conservative tendencies to play the stay-at-home mother of multiple children. She’s at her cutest and oh-so-naive, which is perfect as a counterpart of Kunis. Katherine Han, however, is the revelation. Those used to seeing her as the rabbi on Transparent will be shocked here. She’s supposed to play the “slutty” single mother who’s much wiser to the ways of the world than the other two. Hahn’s timing is impeccable and she’s fearless about playing her man-crazy character to the hilt. Christina Applegate plays the requisite bitchy mother PTA president perfectly, her whole persona designed for maximum hatred. Jada Pickett-Smith is also well-cast as her henchwoman.
The film’s Blu-ray is similarly solid. The set’s 2.40:1/1080p AVC-encoded transfer is fine. The overall look of the film is pretty soft, but that seems like an intentional choice rather than a lackluster transfer. Colors, though, are well saturated, especially in exteriors. Black levels are consistent and deep as well. The film isn’t a visual stunner, and this transfer respects that. In contrast, the DTS-HD 7.1 surround track is sonically very impressive. The film’s dialogue is respected throughout, with plenty of clarity cutting through the mix. But when the film’s pop soundtrack starts expecting clear highs and deep base. In some of the more raucous scenes directionality is especially impressive.
Extras start with a set of deleted scenes, presented as a raw collection of moments cut from the film. We also get a fun gag reel that fans of the actors will appreciate. We also get 24 minutes of interviews where the cast and their moms talk about the film and their lives (portions of which were included in the credits). A DVD copy and Ultraviolet Digital Copy code are included.
There’s a certain irony in having the actress who star in Bad Moms be the stars. I’m sure these women struggle with parenting (if they’re parents), but they’re also likely to be on the younger side of motherhood given the age of the characters who are supposed to be their children. That means that a lot of women who might otherwise identify with the film will be put-off by the youth of the actresses. The film also doesn’t really overstep any serious boundaries, so those looking for a true gross-out comedy, or one that pricks the balloon of the sanctity of motherhood, will be disappointed.
Bad Moms is a fun comedy for anyone who has struggled with parenthood, especially those who have tried in vain to be the “perfect mom.” There are some solid performances and well-earned laughs, even if the overall film is a bit on the hackneyed side. Through in a decent Blu-ray release and you’ve got an excellent gift for the under-appreciate mom in your life.