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‘Bad Moms’ is ‘The Hangover’ for suburban mothers

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From left: Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, and Kathryn Hahn in the comedy “Bad Moms.”
From left: Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, and Kathryn Hahn in the comedy “Bad Moms.”(Michele K. Short © 2016 STX Productions, LLC. All Rights Reserved.)

Complete with a drunken stump speech and rowdy supermarket antics, "Bad Moms" is "The Hangover" for suburban mothers. Bogged down by PTA politics, three women fight for their right to be uninhibited, to be the exact opposite of their Gwyneth Paltrow-esque opponents. It's an all-out war.

Instead of depicting the struggles of groomsmen in Las Vegas, "Bad Moms" highlights a few Chicagoland mothers and their struggle to balance parenthood with personal freedom. Mila Kunis stars as Amy, a perfectionist who got married and had children early. Along with two unlikely friends, foul-mouthed Carla (Kathryn Hahn) and naive Kiki (Kristen Bell), Amy sets out to defeat the tyrannical Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate) in the race for PTA president.

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An all-female buddy comedy film is welcome, especially considering that it came from "The Hangover" screenwriting duo, and this film's directing team, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore. Women are too often utilized as plot points in R-rated comedies, and Lucas and Moore's framing of mothers as society's unsung heroes is a step in the right direction.

But this is no "Bridesmaids." What the film's premise has in novelty, it lacks in execution. The characters are uninspired, and they continue to lack depth and plausibility throughout. Amy says she feels incongruous at a hip coffee company full of 20-somethings, and her character's dowdy "mom bra" is at the center of a scene perhaps intended to distract from her movie-star looks. Keep in mind that this is the same woman who wears five-inch heels to work. And it's Mila Kunis.

Gwendolyn, alternatively, has potential. Her snarky tone is delightful, her disdain for Kunis's two-dimensional character refreshing. But Gwendolyn is quickly reduced to an older version of a teen-flick villain. She's a less interesting Regina George, of "Mean Girls" infamy, rounding out the comparison with two silly sidekicks, played by Jada Pinkett Smith and Annie Mumolo. This isn't a knock on Kunis or Applegate, but rather on the underutilization of the cast. Hahn shines while delivering much of the film's raunchiest content, but she's sidelined in favor of Amy's plotline.

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Would the result have been stronger had Leslie Mann starred and Judd Apatow produced, as was the plan until the couple dropped out of the project last summer? Apatow can subtly humanize both the likable and the despicable. Instead, Lucas and Moore instead disperse cringe-worthy lines. Living up to to the low expectations set by its title, "Bad Moms" does little to surpass them.

½
BAD MOMS

Written and directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore. Starring Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn, Kristen Bell, Christina Applegate. At Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs. 101 minutes. R (language, nudity, general crudeness).


Sonia Rao can be reached at sonia.
rao@globe.com.