IN BAD MOMS, Amy (Mila Kunis) is a working mother of two who, out of exhaustion, rejects the perfect-mom paradigm. She joins forces with single-mom Carla (Kathryn Hahn) and stay-at-home naïf Kiki (Kristen Bell, whose hair is perpetually limp and sad, just like her) to reclaim “bad” parenting. But since Bad Moms is a film about women made by the men who wrote The Hangover, it’s motherhood through bro-colored glasses: Drinking sequences, the word “vagina,” and blunt-force impact are mined for laughs, and just as modern moms are hamstrung by a lack of paid maternity leave and gender double standards, the film’s potential for revenge-flick fun or bawdy escapism is curbed through shallow sentimentality.
Hahn and Bell deliver the film’s funniest lines, though sometimes we watch Kunis laugh at their jokes (this way we know what they said was funny). Similarly, many scenes are bolstered with loud, girl-power anthems by Demi Lovato and Icona Pop, so we know that the women are Being Empowered.
When Amy attests, “It’s impossible to be a ‘good mom’”—as she does several times throughout the film—she’s not wrong. Thanks to the decline of affordable housing, the increase in childcare costs, racism, sexism—I can keep going—modern moms truly have the deck stacked against them. Bad Moms’ real disservice isn’t its college humor, it’s that these issues are paid lip service—Amy’s antagonized by her clueless boss, slacker husband, and a power-hungry PTA mom, but not by the wage gap, the second shift, or cuts to public education. These are issues that can’t be solved by binge drinking and Demi Lovato, though I’m sure many have tried.
It’s not all disappointing: There are moments such as Kiki standing up to her controlling husband, and Amy telling off her son lest he become “another entitled white male,” and a Wanda Sykes cameo. Like Vitaminwater or Kind bars, Bad Moms isn’t as good for you as it thinks it is, but it’s not entirely awful to consume.