By Bill Wine
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — In a disappointing stretch of this year’s movie summer, the phenomenon of Women Bein’ Funny has hit a speed bump. That’s because both Ghostbusters and Absolutely Fabulous have come up so short on the laugh meter, in the persons of Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones in the former and Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley in the latter.READ MORE: Police Say Daughter's Roommate Accused In Fatal Fire That Killed 81-Year-Old Julius Drelick, According To Court Documents
Not that the lack of laughs is necessarily their fault. But then along comes the unpretentious and overachieving little maternal comedy, Bad Moms, which is as pleasantly surprising as the other two titles are surprisingly unrealized.
It’s about a trio of young moms who get tired of the 24-hours-a-day demands of motherhood; who have had it with being overworked and underappreciated, and opt to slack off and stop doing everything for everybody who lives under their roofs; who are sick of seeking perfection and being judged so harshly; and who hereby adopt a temporary but unmistakable mothers-gone-wild approach.
The four principal actresses have done creditable work in the comedy genre before and here comprise an effective and appealing nuclear ensemble.
The protagonist is Mila Kunis (Ted, Friends with Benefits, Forgetting Sarah Marshall), whose life seems fulfilling and entitled on the surface. She’s the mother of two, with a husband who has strayed and whom she has booted out of the house. She’s the one who first proposes going on this strike of sorts.
The two who join her desperate crusade are mother-of-four Kristen Bell (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Serious Moonlight, Frozen) and single-mother-of-one Kathryn Hahn (Bad Words, We’re the Millers, How Do You Know).
And the judgmental villain of the piece, the manipulative and unforgiving president of the PTA, is played by Christina Applegate (Anchorman, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, Vacation), who is followed around by her two unofficial assistants, sympathizers, and lackeys, played by Jada Pinkett Smith and Annie Mumolo.READ MORE: Philadelphia Police Searching For Vehicle, Occupants In Kensington Triple Shooting
For now, the title trio have decided to leave their conventional responsibilities behind them, indulge in some long-overdue freedom and fun, and see whether their husbands and children and friends really need the moms to accomplish so much in the way of simultaneous domestic obligations; whether, that is, their loved ones can manage at least some of the load on their own.
The directors are Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who directed one other feature, 21 & Over, but are best known as the screenwriters of the Hangover trilogy.
In interviews, Lucas and Moore warn viewers not to expect or perceive the R-rated Bad Moms to be “The Female Hangover.” But, of course, in a lot of throwing-caution-to-the-wind and envelope-pushing-language ways, it is. And that’s okay.
While directors Lucas and Moore include a number of scenes that don’t ring true or amount to little other than feature-length filler, screenwriters Lucas and Moore do a decent job of exploring the argument that there are all kinds of variations of admirable parenting.
The co-directors also get spirited ensemble work from their principals, all mothers in real life. And if anyone steals the movie, it’s Hahn, who is at times gut-bustingly funny as the reckless, unfiltered Carla.
If you stay through the closing credits, you’ll also get a bonus mini-visit with each prominent member of the cast and her real-life mom, which is a nice touch – sort of an emotional door prize for appreciative viewers as they exit.MORE NEWS: Supply Chain Issues: How Are Global Shortages Affecting Local Customers?
The film is not exactly nuanced and is underwritten enough to be uneven, but at least it has a specific, audience-friendly agenda and is fitfully amusing.
So we’ll give birth to 2-1/2 stars out of 4. In brief, “Bad Moms” is pretty good.