(Video on Demand, November 2016) Being a mother has always been hard, but it’s even more impossible today given the weight of expectations that society place upon them. Be a good mom, a caring wife, a valued member of the community, etc. all at once! Bad Moms takes on a premise of “what if one of them suddenly stopped caring?” Freed from expectations, a husband or even the ability to care, our protagonist (Mila Kunis, decently funny but arguably not frumpy enough) allies herself with two other moms and goes on a rampage of indulgence. It’s sometimes very funny (the highlight sequence is a raucous grocery store mayhem to the tune of Icona Pop’s “I Love it”), sometimes a bit annoying (don’t get me started on the clownish Bad Dads of the film) and usually at the limits of believability. Unfortunately, the last act of the film is hampered by a sudden excess of sentimentality, the unsatisfactory resolution of a few romantic plotlines and a general lowering of energy. But when it works, it’s not bad—Kunis is often overshadowed by Kirsten Bell as a mousy bad mom, and especially Kathryn Hahn as an uninhibited divorcee. (Further adding to Hahn’s deviant screen persona.) While Bad Moms doesn’t quite take advantage of its own opportunities, it feels grounded in some kind of current reality, and does hit a number of high notes on its way to a middling conclusion. Plus: Social topical relevancy alongside the cheap intoxication jokes.
(On-demand Video, April 2012) It feels churlish to criticize a film that’s not meant to be much more than a lighthearted comedy with a female-centric cast, and perhaps even ungrateful to do so when it does deliver a few laughs, but You Again simply isn’t as good as it could be. While the idea of a decade-deferred vengeance between bully and bullied is interesting and definitely can be mined for comedy, this script seems confused between slapstick, retribution and reconciliation. The first act is annoying in how it presents a relatively innocuous situation where an easy way out is dismissed through sheer dramatic inevitability: the main conflict of the film exists because the characters are self-destructive, and the ending doesn’t do much to send an anti-bullying or even anti-revenge message. But, OK, fine: this is not a “message” movie, even though it shoots itself in the foot comedy-wise by trying to reach for a heartfelt moment or two late in the game. It’s perhaps best to focus on Kirsten Bell’s physical comedy in the lead role, or the casting of Jamie Lee Curtis and Sigourney Weaver as dueling rivals, or the always-hilarious Betty White and Kristin Chenoweth in small supporting roles. (There are also a few cute cameos.) Meanwhile, the male performers all wisely take a step back in order to let the actresses shine. It adds up to a film that’s not too difficult to watch, but goes through a number of fuzzy plot choices that do nothing to bring You Again out of average mediocrity. Good casting; flat script: could have been much better.