"Let's be ... Bad Moms," Mila Kunis boldly announces halfway through the new female-driven, R-rated comedy Bad Moms. I really hate it when that happens in films, it sends a weird grave-shiver down the spine like when you spot yourself in the background of someone else's photograph, a ghost trapped in time. The latest edgy domestic romp to come from the same writers of blockbuster comedy franchise The Hangover, Bad Moms swaps out the brash men for brash women, Mike Tyson for Martha Stewart and the dick jokes for ... more dick jokes.
Boasting a cast of comedy heavyweights including Kunis, Kristen Bell, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Christina Applegate, Bad Moms follows a group of frazzled moms in suburban Chicago who decide to throw away "having it all" in exchange for having fun and making time for themselves. As great as it would be to imagine a time in history where this wouldn't be an intriguing hook for a feature-length film, it remains a resonant observation that mothers everywhere are still running themselves ragged. It's hard work trying to raise kids, manage careers, ice cupcakes and still maintain the poise and physique of noted mum, Beyonce Knowles.
The film feels like a cathartic reaction to these societal pressures, combining some of the best comedy talent and throwing liquor at everything with both fingers high in the air. It's not looking to change the world, but it's certainly going to point and laugh at it. The wide-eyed, disarmingly ageless Kunis plays Amy Mitchell, a young mum now juggling a deadbeat husband, a terrible job run by pesky Millenanials on scooters, and an ongoing conflict with the head of the PTA. "I had my kids at 20 years old and I've been running late ever since," she sighs in the intro voiceover, before pulling her car over and sobbing uncontrollably.
Help is on the way for Amy, after she befriends doe-eyed homebody Kiki (Kristen Bell) and rough-around-the-edges single mum Carla (Kathryn Hahn). This rag-tag lot, bonding over shots of scotch after a PTA meeting, go up against the Mean Girls of Bad Moms - Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate), Stacy (Jada Pinkett-Smith) and Vicky (Annie Mumolo). Hell-bent on gluten-free, sugar-free, fun-free bake sales, they are the tyrants of perfect parenting. But this veneer is quick to drop, with surprisingly horny asides such as "I'd let him put it in my butt" giving their characters more bite more than just Stepford caricatures.
Bad Moms isn't a great movie, but it's packed with enough gross-out humour and physical comedy for it to sit very comfortably in the canon of mediocre adult comedies like Ted and every single thing Judd Apatow has been in the same room as. It's still cool and refreshing to see women in films talking as frankly as they do with each other in real life, such as when Bell sums up her sex life as "every Friday after Blue Bloods". There are certainly golden moments, but the pop culture references can be heavy-handed and the gags often feel too drawn-out.
It's probably also worth noting that Bad Moms is as much an exercise in privilege as it is catharsis. When Amy tells her boss where to shove it, and retires to a life of getting drunk and taking herself out for breakfast, I can't help but feel that much of the audience would get sidetracked on where her income might be coming from. Despite needing that small suspension of belief, the universal observations and general air of giving no f***s keeps the film afloat, reminding women everywhere that it's okay to be bad sometimes too.