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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Blu-ray Review: @BadMoms

Bad Moms is a naughty, nasty, raunchfest that doesn't quite deliver on Blu-ray.

Review by Matt Cummings

As we headed into the home stretch for the Summer 2016 box office, one thing was abundantly clear: it was the worst in terms of quality releases as far back as I've been writing about it. Luckily, Bad Moms arrived to make that long list of trash a bit more bearable while establishing itself as potentially the sleeper hit of the year. And yet its message is one that I hope doesn't resonate with stressed out moms ready to party it up at the expense of their children. Sadly, the home release doesn't fare as well, displaying good audio, decent video, and a disappointing lack of extras.

For stressed-out mom Amy (Mila Kunis), every day is spent rushing to parent meetings, working full-time hours at her part-time job, and trying to get her husband to actually do some parenting along the way. But when her marriage suddenly ends over a long-time affair, Amy is forced to take on her entitled kids, house, dog, and the pressures of a bake sale headed by bitchy PTA president Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate). Soon, the pressures become too much and Amy finds herself quitting the PTA and drinking in a bar with two other moms: the overly-sensitive Kiki (Kristen Bell) and the scantly-clad loudmouth Carla (Kathryn Hahn). The trio begin to question their roles as parents, and soon find themselves behaving badly (cut to slo-mo gratuitous supermarket scene) while at the same time refusing to make their teenage children breakfast or lunch any longer, while boozing it up and returning to more favored activities like reading the paper and enjoying a quiet breakfast. But when Gwendolyn learns of Amy's 'betrayal' she plots to destroy her child's chance to play soccer, forcing Amy to run against Gwendolyn for PTA president. The results will upend the very nature of what moms do for their children and free Amy's trio to live a more balanced life.

Bad Moms takes on an uncomfortable truth: that years of overly-protecting our children, handing out medals for participation instead of results, and doting them has actually made them soft and entitled. From there, Directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore wage a war against those children and the moms responsible by pushing Kunis and Bell into literary corners and then giving them a sledgehammer to bash their way out. Luckily, the comedy is so terrific and the chemistry right on that we can forgive any dire underlying message about marriage equality, sexual roles, and "Who's to blame." But consider that perhaps the funniest movie of the year so far - a movie about being perfect parents and the whole "reap what you sow" philosophy - is directed & written not by women but men. That might not mean anything, or it could mean everything depending on how you see the today's world evolving. For Moore and Lucas, the message is right on, even if that is sometimes shouted from the highest roof in multiple directions and times.

Bad Moms is squarely centered around Kunis and her breakdown, but Hahn and Bell deliver great caricature performances of moms we've all had the displeasure of knowing: the one with self-esteem issues and the cougar who doesn't even try to be good until Kiki and Amy show her how the error of her ways. They really do offer three sides to the story, with each one right and wrong in their approaches. Hahn emerges the best here, but Bell is also thoroughly likable; Kunis' Amy is just a little too dour to be placed front and center, mostly because Moore and Lucas don't delve too much into Kiki and Carla's lives. Applegate is great as Gwendolyn, a conniving bitch who actually moves up the food chain with two great scenes at film's end. She too is a mom on the edge, stressed out with the roles inherent i raising children, and her redemption plays extremely well.

Bad Moms doesn't break the mold of either The Hangover or Bridesmaids, sticking to slo-mo shots of milk pouring on the supermarket floor, moms making out, etc. Luckily, the film does find the right time to turn up the joke meter while returning everyone to a sense of normalcy by the end. As Amy delivers a rather dull “I’m not a perfect mother, and that’s OK,” speech during the PTA elections, Moore and Lucas rescue us from the malaise with a hilarious bit in which several moms stand up to admit their parenting errors. And with all of this going on, Bad Moms still succeeds because its underlying message is so craftily assembled. No matter what our children say, they want their parents involved in their lives, from attending baseball games to piano recitals. Whether they need them to be at all of them and whether moms take on too many responsibilities is a subject Bad Moms exceeds at investigating.

And yet, I worry that the message behind Bad Moms is so far out of whack that some lesser moms will treat it as an excuse to be bad, just because Hollywood said it was now OK. I doubt that was the message our creative team meant to hand out with all the laughs, genitals, and bad behavior in the supermarket. And yet with female roles seemingly changing every day, I hope the message moves the pendulum right to where it needs to be: the middle. Perhaps if it didn't also paint men in only three behavioral colors - the coach potato cheater (David Walton), the flighty boss, the gorgeous hunk (Jessie Hernandez) - I might have felt better about its message. No mom (or dad) can be the 'perfect parent,' no matter the money or time one has. As social media continues to place a microscope on every action a parent takes, it becomes increasingly difficult for either side to know what is "fair parenting" or not. If Bad Moms can be criticized for one thing, it's the grenade they throw in the room without sticking around to help parents figure out what to do.

The Video - 3.5/5
Bad Moms is presented by Universal Studios but fails to make the digitally-shot movie look as good as it could. Granted, we're talking about a comedy here but the lack of clarity (featuring an almost fuzzy appearance) becomes apparent as soon as the Universal logo appears. Clothing also suffers, looking more diffused than razor sharp, something that you never see in even the most modest of Blu-ray releases. That sort of treatment never presented itself in the theatrical version, and it's odd to see Universal drop the ball here. Colors are presentable, never over-saturating but at the same time failing to do anything special. Shadows and blacks are also affected, smudging off into the night rather than presenting a solid transition. This is honestly one of the worst releases for a major studio that I've seen since Bucky Larson: Born to Be A Star, and that's saying a lot.

The Audio - 4/5
Luckily, Bad Moms is raring to go in the audio department, delivering an impressive DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 experience. Wait a second: did you say 7.1? How is this possible with such a mediocre video transfer? Well, you won't be asking yourself that as you try to process this rather boisterous track. Music fares the best here, thumping at the LFE like a MILF pounding on the next door neighbor's boy. Aggressive isn't quite the word here, but it gets close. Engine sounds from Amy's muscle car are particularly Jack Reacher-like, but even the surrounds have something to say. They feature crowd noise and school drop-off chatter. Dialogue is squared right where it should be - in the center channel - and you'll never find yourseld straining to hear it. If only the video department had made the same effort, we could have been talking about a different impression.

The Supplements - 1.5/5
Featuring the bare minimum of supplements, Bad Moms offers the following, all in HD:
  • Gag Reel (6:02)
  • Deleted Scenes (16:36): None of the sections are titled, and you cannot play them individually.
  • Cast & Mom Interviews (23:52): Perhaps the best thing here are the cast and their mothers discussing various subjects. As a set, they're a bit long to sit through, but their insights might interest you.
  • Our evaluation copy arrived as a Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack. The presence of a slipcase is appreciated, as is the voucher for a UV/iTunes Digital Copy. At the time of this post, we were not aware of any special versions.

    The Bottom Line - 3.5/5
    Bad Moms is one of the funniest and unabashedly unforgiving comedies of the past few years. In a male-dominated society which seems to be tipping back to a (necessary) balance, it's refreshing to see an all-female comedy that also doesn't treat men like the newest plague (see The Intern). Hahn ups this film's street cred by turning in one of the best comedic performances in years, even though the movie's message that no mother is truly "good" or perfect is a bit heavy-handed in parts. Let's just hope that moms around the country don't take the wild fun to heart and head out for a bender without at least securing babysitters for their children. I can see that happening, just between you and me.

    The home release is a mixed bag for sure. The audio is terrific, but everything else from the usually-reliable Universal is a disappointment. WHile I understand the genre as a whole might not be reference-quality, studios have a duty to provide audiences with the best products they can make. Had the original version suffered some sort of serious digital meltdown, I might have given Universal a break. Not here. I can't recommend Bad Moms as a purchase, even though I loved the film. But check it out on rental - you might be more forgiving.

    Bad Moms is rated R for sexual material, full frontal nudity, language throughout, and drug and alcohol content and has a runtime of 101 minutes.

    Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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