'A Bad Moms' Christmas' balances vulgar and poignant
By Martha K. Baker
What made Bad Moms delightful was the attention to truth: those moms weren't bad so much as they were exhausted. The moms in the sequel are shown to be exhausted, too, but by trying to make Christmas perfect -- the perfect tree, perfect gifts, perfect parties. They are their mothers' daughters.
The film could be called "Meet the Mothers," for here are the women who formed the characters who became the so-called "bad moms." Kiki's mother smothers her, right down to PJs with her daughter's head printed helter-skelter on the flannel. Amy's mother is a perfectionist with a mannequin's stud up her backside. Carla suffers an absentee mother, one who shows up asking for money and then gambles it.
It's more than the young mothers can bear. So they turn to drink and therapy and cursing. Their F-bombs are never followed by la-la-la-la-la-la-la. They struggle with their mothers as, it turns out, their mothers wrestled with theirs, too. It's matrilineal.
Mila Kunis and Kristen Bell bring Amy and Kiki to life, funnily enough, but it is Kathryn Hahn who stands out as Carla, now working in a spa as a waxer. When she is presented with the private parts of a male stripper, Hahn waxes eloquently, facially and vocally. As would any red-blooded American heterosexual woman. And, still, no complete male nudity, only reaction shots -- oh, and one especially funny sound effect. The mothers are portrayed to a fare-thee-well by Cheryl Hines, Susan Sarandon, and Christine Baranski as they, too, find a new path for themselves away from the perfect Christmas.
Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who wrote and directed Bad Moms and The Hangover, know their audience, and in A Bad Moms Christmas, they balance the nasty with the poignant. Almost.