Bad Moms

You'd have thought it would be over by now, right? From Lucille Ball to Joan Rivers to Carol Burnett to Sarah Silverman to Tina Fey to Kristin Wiig, women have been an ever present in the comedy landscape for as long as their male counterparts. But, inexplicably, while their successes are interpreted as anomalies, their failures are seen as the norm, with naysayers forgetting Bridesmaids and Sisters or the fact that Melissa McCarthy and Jennifer Lawrence are the two most financially sustainable actors working today.

Bad Moms won't buck this trend. While an enjoyable lark that delivers steady laughs, it retreats to the comfort and safety of cliché, especially in its structure and over reliance on montage - which start off hilarious, then becomes exhausting before then descending into the cringe worthy, while its ending is so neat and tidy that you'll want to introduce it to your parents.

But these are faults that Bad Moms shares with dozens upon dozens of other comedies. What would be unforgivable would be if the dynamic of its leading ladies didn't work. Thankfully, when together, Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn work in tandem gloriously, thanks to their selfless interplay, which sees each of them leave their inhibitions to the side and prove that they can be just as raucously immature as the boys.

Kunis takes the lead role as the perennially exhausted Amy Mitchell, who is two kids deep into a stale and now loveless marriage, as well as overworked at home and in her supposedly part-time job that has become full without the increased pay. One day, she decides to free herself from her responsibilities.

Amy finds allies in Kristen Bell's Kiki and Kathryn Hahn's Carla, but soon is targeted by the delightfully evil Christina Applegate's Gwendolyn, the head of the Parent Teachers Association that has a dictatorship over the school, and who is offended by the trio's antics. Especially when Amy decides to run for the head of the PTA herself.

The sophomore directorial project of Jon Lucas & Scott Moore, who previously wrote and directed 21 & Over as well as writing The Hangover, Bad Moms is somewhere in the middle of these comedies. Lucas & Moore's script is littered with consistently funny, if never belly-aching, quips and gags, while Kunis, Bell, and Hahn embody and then play upon recognizable female stereotypes in the same way that The Hangover's three male leads did. Kunis is the mom trying so hard to be good that she relishes the sudden allure of being bad. Bell is the tightly woven, partly peculiar wallflower that's easily corrupted. While Hahn is crude, aggressive, loud, and confrontational, so it's no surprise that she lands all the loudest laughs.

Bad Moms is at its enjoyable best when the women dismiss their responsibilities and crudely embrace the dark side. It's just a shame then that they're not given a sturdy enough plot that allows them to spiral even further out of control. Instead, we watch them drink too much, and party too hard in a supermarket. Then drink too much, and party too hard in Kunis' home. It gets repetitive, while all of the other narrative beats are too forgettable or familiar, and the bid to dispose Applegate as the head of the PTA is almost injected as an after-thought and emerges too late into the film to compel.

Luckily, despite its issues, the trifecta of leading ladies keeps Bad Moms cognizant, as they're able to inject energy into Moore and Lucas' hackneyed direction, structure and plotting through their warm and effervescent personalities and camaraderie. In all likelihood, though, expect Bad Moms' failings to lazily and depressingly be misattributed to them, even though they deserve eternal credit for salvaging a comedy that would have been exhausting without their combined presence.

Gregory Wakeman