Rated: MA 15+
Directors: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
Writers: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
Producers: Bill Block, Mark Kamine, Suzanne Todd
Stars: Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn, Susan Sarandon, Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines, Wanda Sykes, Peter Gallagher.
Is any situation funny just because people are drinking so much they steal, assault and create mayhem? If it is, it has to be well written with characters we have become fond of, which this film was not.
With an opening scene showing wholesale tinsel and bauble carnage (reminiscent of the start of The Hangover which was also written by this film’s writers/directors), we meet one of the “Bad Moms”, Mila Kunis as Amy, looking beautifully coiffed and made up no matter the time of day or night, who confesses to having “ruined Christmas”.
The theme of this movie – conflict between mothers and daughters – appears to be best summed up by Amy’s mother Ruth (Christine Baranski) who says loftily, “You’re a mom. Moms don’t enjoy, they give joy,” (although joy is not an emotion you would normally associate with her). Amy’s response, after a series of passive-aggressive encounters that escalate to overt rebellion, is to declare to her two fellow moms, “Christmas is supposed to be fun. Let’s take Christmas back!”
Showing little originality or creativity, the movie revisits the days leading up to what caused Amy’s apparent destruction of Christmas, with scant attempt to provide background for those viewers who may not have seen the first Bad Moms movie. For example, it isn’t initially clear what her relationship is with the hottie Jessie (Jay Hernandez). I thought he was her husband until someone mentions this will be the first Christmas for the children without their father, implying he’s dead. It isn’t until later we learn Amy has in fact divorced her husband, but not why, obviously because we should already know.
The other “Bad Moms” are also re/introduced: sweet yet repressed Kiki (Kristen Bell), married with three or maybe four kids, with an overly possessive mother (Cheryl Hines) who isn’t coping well following the death of her husband and who sees her daughter as a replacement companion.
By far the crudest yet most convincing of the three is Carla (Kathryn Hahn), a single mother of more mature years with a teenage son and a largely absent rocker mother, Isis (Susan Sarandon) who only turns up once every few years when she needs to borrow money. Strangely I most enjoyed the scenes with Carla at her day spa job. Her waxing of a visiting fireman/stripper (the incredibly buff and toned Justin Hartley) produced the most laughs, mainly because of its silly yet sweet spin on two people meeting and falling for each other in ridiculous circumstances. Kiki’s visit to the psychologist Dr Karl (Wanda Sykes) also stood out as one of the better crafted comic scenes.
Most of the movie is devoted to a series of expletive-laden shouting matches between the various mothers and daughters that rely on swearing instead of wit, interspersed with slow-motion montages showing the three Bad Moms getting drunk, abusive and stealing other people’s property because hey, that’s fun, isn’t it? Then the pace gets slower and the mood more serious as the various characters implode, explode, break down, wallow in regret before they reflect and reunite in a typically Americanised sentimental way.
While the preview audience was well lubricated with strong cocktails so were probably in the mood to be easily pleased, watching this film sober meant the crudity and charm-free sit-com direction were undiluted and much harder to swallow. Having to celebrate Christmas with these people would be a punishment.