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Bad Moms delivers on laughs without resorting to clichés

Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis and Kathryn Hahn star in Bad Moms, an overall hilarious look at the supermom ideal.

3 out of 4 stars

Bad Moms
Written by
Jon Lucas and Scott Moore
Directed by
Jon Lucas and Scott Moore
Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn and Kristen Bell

I wish I could say I was a few years off from finding the premise of two groups of moms battling over the title of next PTA president funny. But it turns out that I want all the kale jokes, the Zumba one-liners, the "mom bra" bangers. Like Bad Mom's star Mila Kunis, it seems I have aged into a new demographic.

Over the years, Kunis has gone from baby-faced Jackie on That '70s Show to single and down to, ahem, party in movies such as Friends with Benefits and Black Swan. Now, with Bad Moms (written and directed by the duo behind the scripts of The Hangover franchise, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore) Kunis has transitioned into playing Amy, a mother of two who is run off her feet trying (and failing) to be a supermom. Her deadbeat husband – with a browser history that proves him to be less-than-faithful – isn't helping, either.

But misery loves company. Amy's sidekicks and fellow "bad" moms are Carla (Kathryn Hahn) and Kiki (Kristen Bell), who likewise can't seem to meet the impossible gold standard of motherhood that their kids' school demands. The women bond over their shared ineptitudes and let loose (after much liquor) in a hilarious slow-motion midnight supermarket montage where Froot Loops fall in a cascading rainbow blur.

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Kunis is sweet without dripping in sweetness and her character's nemesis – the uptight and scheming president of the PTA, played by Christina Applegate – creates good tension without letting the film fall into the overplayed story of female cattiness. Bell is very good, too, waking up the tired trope of "dumb blonde" jokes with aplomb. In the hands of a lesser-known performer, Kiki's cluelessness could have played much differently, but Bell's revitalization of the funny ditz is made possible in part because she's known for her role as a badass feminist detective in the cult-favourite Veronica Mars. Then there's Jada Pinkett Smith, Annie Mumolo and Jay Hernandez, who round out the supporting cast with quick quips and chiseled abs, respectively.

Although all these actors prove the shrewd casting choices of Bad Moms, it is Hahn who makes this unassuming summer blockbuster something close to stellar. As Carla, Hahn is a truly laissez-faire mother who loves her kid, sure, but who has chosen to pass on the sweater sets and pursed lips of the Good Moms. All hair, makeup, and one-liners, Hahn doesn't quite save this movie (the writing is too on-point for it to need saving) but she turns up the comedic voltage by many watts.

Hahn, who most recently appeared on the Amazon Studio hit Transparent, directed by her frequent collaborator Jill Soloway, is already beloved on the small screen (she's also had runs on Happyish and Parks and Recreation and is working with Soloway on a new series co-starring Kevin Bacon). Now, it feels like, with Bad Moms, Hahn might become a household name: An actor able to tight walk the fine line between independent projects and money-making mainstream titles. I, for one, am here for it.

The film is not without its flaws, but then again, that's its very own message: Nobody is perfect. Bad Moms veers into heavy-handed when Amy holds court over a party of drunken moms on a school night and proclaims that the love of one's child is all that matters in this demanding world. But I'm ready to forgive the movie's few missteps (such as its cringing attempts to depict millennials at Amy's hip workplace) for its overall hilarity. It's also worth a few mawkish moments to see a crucial message projected onto the big screen, a message that may seem too simple, but which nonetheless bears repeating: The ideal of the Good Mother is a fiction, so go ahead and be bad. It's more fun.

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