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Bad Moms alternates satire with easy answers

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Hollywood franchise-building is a competitive business, so it’s remarkable to see how many different studios have agreed to put aside their differences and allow the Badseries to develop across various corporate borders. Sure, there may not any formal connection between Bad Santa, Bad Teacher, Bad Grandpa, Bad Words, Bad Gymnast(sorry, The Bronze), and the new Bad Moms apart from the universal desire to attract audiences with the promise of zanily inappropriate behavior from people who are supposed to be role models and/or authority figures. But they do seem to be the product of an agreement that everyone is allowed to rip off this concept from everyone else. All of these studios and filmmakers may revel in bad behavior, but they seem to know how to share.

Photo: STX Productions

Shared ideas aside, there is something more transgressive, however faintly, about the impulses behind Bad Moms. When Amy (Mila Kunis) opens the movie with an immediate barrage of exposition-dump narration about the two kids she had young and the challenges she faces as a working mother, the clunkiness feels believable, in its way: She doesn’t have time to engage in graceful visual storytelling, especially not with the soft-focus, washed-out cinematography. Pushed to the breaking point after a particularly bad day (and faced with a particularly unhelpful, possibly disloyal husband), Amy wanders into a bar, where she befriends Kiki (Kristen Bell), the similarly beleaguered stay-at-home mother of four, and single mom Carla (Kathryn Hahn). They resolve to rebel against the perfect-mom fascism of PTA president Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate, flanked by minions played by Jada Pinkett Smith and Annie Mumolo).

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