Twist on trope and a great cast make 'Bad Moms' a good time

Brad Keefe, Columbus Alive

Note to Hollywood: If you want a new twist on an old trope, just flip the gender focus. And I don't say this as a bad thing.

"Bad Moms" is a shameless crowd-pleaser of a comedy that owes a debt to "man-child" comedies ranging from "Old School" to a big chunk of Judd Apatow's filmography, only its focus isn't responsibility-averse adult men, it's overworked, underappreciated moms.

Amy (Mila Kunis) is the representative mother of two who struggles with juggling caring for her kids (and husband), a job with a hip coffee company and wrangling soccer practices and PTA meetings led by an overbearing supermom named Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate).

"At least once a day, I feel like the worst mom in the world," she says in an opening voiceover. "And then I cry in my car."

In her rebellion against the perfectionist parents of the PTA, Amy bonds with a wild divorced mom named Carla (Kathryn Hahn) and an impossibly upbeat stay-at-home mom named Kiki (Kristen Bell).

When she catches her (coincidentally man-child) husband in a cyber-affair, Amy decides she's had enough and is going to take a break from responsible adult life and have some fun.

"Bad Moms" doesn't tread any new water there. Amy essentially lives out the "what if I just didn't go into work" fantasy of "Office Space," only also applied to making the kids breakfast and whipping up homemade cookies for the bake sale.

Other influences are pretty easy to spot. There's a slow-mo scene of the three moms living it up in a supermarket with every '90s hip-hop video cliché, a la The Lonely Island. The story and character dynamic also owe a lot to "Mean Girls" - a point made obvious in a scene near the end that is basically lifted from Tina Fey's script.

And then there's another reason for the man-child comparison I made earlier. Co-writers/directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore are the dudes who brought us "The Hangover," although they didn't write the inferior sequels.

Even when it's derivative and predictable, "Bad Moms" is a blast, consistently funny and refreshingly focused on its female characters as people. It passes the Bechdel test with flying colors.

And a big chunk of the credit goes to a cast with great chemistry. The three lead characters represent a pretty standard comedy dynamic, but the casting is perfect for Kunis' charms, Bell's meek comedic turn and Hahn's brashness.

It's downright stupid we don't have more movies aimed at half the population, so make this one a double-feature with "Ghostbusters."

"Bad Moms"

Opens Thursday

3 stars out of 4