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Sunday, January 17, 2021

Fast food and booze spike the stress of motherhood

“Bad Moms” doesn’t kick into gear until three mothers, fed up with the stress of helicopter parenting and the unrealistic expectations of a draconian PTA president, walk into a bar. One shot leads to another, and pretty soon they’re discussing their most seductive fantasies: eating breakfast alone with a good book, for example. One mother of four goes into lurid detail about her dream of getting into a moderately serious car accident. She can practically picture herself laid up in the hospital, overdosing on sleep and television.

If this scenario rings even vaguely true, then take heart: Amid all the superheroes clogging theaters this summer, there’s a movie for you. Writer-directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore – better known for the bro-centric comedies “The Hangover,” “21 & Over” and “The Change-Up” – use their raunchy humor to cater to all the mothers who feel like they’re drowning in commitments.

Mila Kunis plays Amy, a mother of two. Every day she strains to meet the demands of work and home, while making it look easy. But between chauffeuring her kids to Mandarin lessons and soccer practice, her overbearing boss and the alarmist PTA meetings, she’s perpetually sprinting around in high heels, wearing whatever lunch she had tried to inhale while driving.

For Amy, something snaps when she catches her husband (David Walton) video-chatting with a naked woman. After kicking him out of the house, she starts to wonder if maybe there’s a less strenuous way to live.

So she starts playing hooky from work, hitting the Arby’s drive-through instead of making her kids’ lunches and bonding with like-minded moms Carla and Kiki (Kathryn Hahn and Kristen Bell). Amy begins making her happiness a priority, while also getting real about how hard it is to be a working mother, especially a single one.

The conflict arises when Amy and her friends take on the mean girls of the PTA, led by the persnickety Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate). She’s the kind of woman who hangs around during school drop-offs just to cast her judgmental eye on the other parents – except the “hot widower” (Jay Hernandez), who gets a pass. When Amy brings store-bought goodies to the school bake sale, Gwendolyn hurls them to the ground. For our heroine, this means war. Pretty soon Amy is scheming to unseat her nemesis and take over as PTA president. It’s all kind of phony, but the film still delivers laughs.

Where it falters more seriously is with the love interest that’s been shoehorned into the plot, as if every movie geared toward women needs a rom-com element. Don’t these ladies have enough on their plates?

Overall, however, the comedy sails along, thanks to its charismatic leads. Hahn is especially good as a single mom with sex on the brain, and is the highlight of one of the comedy’s most uproarious moments, when the three women follow a night of boozing with an anarchic grocery-store run. Shot in slow-motion, the moms tear into boxes of sugary cereal, letting the colorful Os pour into their mouths, before fondling some sausages. They even hit on the employees, raining dollar bills on a young, boyish cashier. But they also take a breather to coo over a baby.

For a movie that traffics in the messiness of life, “Bad Moms” wraps up a little too tidily. Then again, maybe a happy ending is just what an audience full of exhausted moms deserves.

– – –

Two and a half stars. Rated R. Contains sexual material, full frontal nudity, strong language and drug use. 101 minutes.

Ratings Guide: Four stars masterpiece, three stars very good, two stars OK, one star poor, no stars waste of time.

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