“Hangover” scribes Jon Lucas and Scott Moore have certainly found their niche. Their debut as writer-directors, “21 & Over,” transferred “Hangover”-style debauchery to a college setting, and their latest, “Bad Moms,” gives us the Moms Gone Wild version. If you want to see people drunkenly misbehave in an often funny but sloppily written raunch-com, Lucas & Moore are your guys!
In this one, Mila Kunis stars as Amy, an “average” frazzled suburban mom of two middle-schoolers who has a useless husband (David Walton). Amy gets fed up with the impossible standards of perfection set by Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate), the mean-girl PTA president — this is one of those movies where the local PTA is more powerful than the federal government — and decides to cut loose with her like-minded new friends: Carla (Kathryn Hahn), a promiscuous and irresponsible single mother; and Kiki (Kristen Bell), a modest and subservient stay-at-home wife.
The film is frequently hilarious when it focuses on Amy, Carla, and Kiki, the three of them harmoniously representing three distinct types (or stereotypes) of modern moms whose love for their children is not diminished by the fact that they’re overwhelmed and tired all the time. (Says the decidedly un-sentimental Carla, “Every time I think about that big, dumb motherf*****” — that is, her son — “going to college, I want to cry like a baby.”) They interact with crackling energy, the different personalities balancing one another, and their “crazy” adventures of sleeping in, having brunch, and going to the movies during the day are pure wish-fulfillment for the harried moms in the audience. (They do some legitimately rowdy things, too, including a drunken trip to the supermarket that’s an instant classic.)
The film is less successful when it focuses on Amy specifically: her dying marriage, the new guy she likes (Jay Hernandez), her kids’ various problems, her weirdly under-explained job. This stuff just isn’t as funny or relatable, largely because Lucas and Moore are so careless with the details (enough that you wonder if they have any experience with parenting, jobs, or relationships). Gwendolyn’s minions, played by Jada Pinkett Smith and Annie Mumolo (who co-wrote “Bridesmaids”), are underused, and the plot is wrapped up with astonishingly lazy tidiness. (Hooray for public speeches!)
But it’s worth it for MVP Kathryn Hahn, a devastating comedy force whose powers Hollywood is just beginning to comprehend. Ever since she told Veronica Corningstone that Ron Burgundy “will read anything that is put on that teleprompter — and when I say anything, I mean a-ny-thi-ng,” Hahn has been a bright spot in numerous small-scale comedies, with a particularly robust stint as a ruthless political adviser on “Parks and Recreation.” Meaner than Kristen Wiig, less clownish than Melissa McCarthy, she could take the lead in a dark comedy and knock it out of the park. In the meantime, she shines as a supporting player in this bumpy, scathing, and ultimately kind of sweet (I said KIND OF) confection.
B- (1 hr., 41 min.; )