Opening Friday, July 29

With a laser sight on its target audience, Bad Moms provides a communal, cathartic night out for the Magic Mike crowd. It’s a chance to live vicariously through world-weary women who cast off their maternal shackles and let their fun flags fly. Realism doesn’t matter when viewers are looking for an escape from reality, so if that means getting a hot rod and hotter guyhey, go with it.

Amy Mitchell (Mila Kunis) is the sort of movie mom who looks like Mila Kunis, lives in a chic Chicago suburb, works part-time for a coffee co-op, and is married to a successful mortgage broker. But Amy can’t juggle all the expectations of being a wife, underpaid worker, and mother of two. She splits from her husband after discovering his online affair and then quits the school’s PTA, led by oligarch Gwendolyn Jones (Christina Applegate)the sort of Stepford supermom who names her children Blair and Gandhi.

Amy’s stand attracts disaffected moms Kiki (Kristen Bell) and Carla (Kathryn Hahn), who band together to reclaim their self-respect. Kiki’s sex life is limited to a weekly ritual after Blue Bloods, and her only hope for a vacation from her four kids is an extended, insurance-paid hospitalization. Carla is the group’s id, a bawdy, boozy single mom who indiscriminately flirts with every man in sight, available or not.

Soon, Amy has swapped homemade school lunches for Arby’s, work for brunch, and her minivan for hubby’s cherry-red muscle car. Carla helps upgrade Amy’s matronly bra, teaches her the proper handling technique for an uncircumcised penis, and throws her back into a dating pool seemingly stocked solely by the hunky widower living down the street (Jay Hernandez).

It’s a solid thirty-minute premise that dissipates into a premenopausal Mean Girls after Amy decides to run for PTA prez against Gwen and her catty coterie (Jada Pinkett Smith and Annie Mumolo)a box-wine and pizza candidate against one who invites Martha Stewart to her campaign soiree.

There are echoes of directors Scott Moore and Jon Lucas’s screenplay for The Change-Up, which tackled the dichotomy of family responsibilities and liberating fun from a male standpoint. Moore and Lucas also borrow the tri-headed protagonist from their script for The Hangover. Kunis, like Bradley Cooper, is the put-upon lead. Bell, like Ed Helms, plays a timid homebody suppressing an inner wild child. And Hahn, like Zach Galifianakis, carries the film through many ebbs with ribald asides and comedic personality.

Accompanied by a throwaway soundtrack cribbed from the Billboard pop charts, Bad Moms loses its moorings during its de rigueur final-act stab at sentimentality, including a Big Speech and the disappearance of all conflicts. There are flailing digs at standardized tests and excessive homework, and there’s Amy’s forced campaign mea culpa that “We’re all bad moms.”

But we’re all bad parents, in many ways, and that’s a mantra that has an expiration date of the next school day.

This article appeared in print with the headline “Mother Bored”