Since the success of Bridesmaids in 2011, studios have been churning out so-called women-behaving-badly comedies at an increasingly rapid pace. In the past few months alone, we’ve been treated to the likes of Snatched, Rough Night, The Little Hours, Girls Trip, and, now, Alethea Jones’s Fun Mom Dinner. Where some of these films are thoughtful in their exploration of women’s perspectives and friendships, others remain lazily content to simply put their female characters through the potty-mouthed, gross-out comedy ringer and propel their actions with the same grab-life-by-the-balls gusto that drives the action in the male-led comedies from which they’re modeled.
Fun Mom Dinner is centered on Emily (Katie Aselton), who, stuck in a rut of childrearing through a joyless stretch in her marriage with husband Tom (Adam Scott), heads out for a night of fun with several other moms from her kids’ preschool. Along with her tough-skinned bestie, Kate (Toni Collette), Emily is joined by brash wildcard Melanie (Bridget Everett) and aging bachelorette Jamie (Molly Shannon). As the women bond over dinner and drinks, their fun escalates quickly from a joint in the bathroom and karaoke to increasingly vulgar discussions of vajazzling and rosebudding, showing just how gnarly these moms can get when they just have the time to let loose.
Eventually, Emily’s fun goes a little too far and she slips away from the group to gallivant around town with a cute bartender, Luke (Adam Levine), leading the other women to hunt her down by tracking her cellphone to prevent her from doing something that she might regret. All the while, Tom is watching their kids with the help of Kate’s husband, Andrew (Rob Huebel), who essentially teaches the clueless Tom how to parent in a matter of hours.
In trying to show its characters how the other half lives, giving Emily the freedom of her uninvolved husband and Luke the responsibilities of motherhood, Fun Mom Dinner draws from tired tropes and gender/parental roles that were outdated decades ago. Just as Tom sheds his one-night-only motherly persona to return as a born-again alpha male complete with a red sports car, once Emily’s initial rush of freedom passes, she remorsefully resumes the duties of her domestic life, accepting that her wild night out was not a much-needed release of stress and female bonding as much as a mistake that threatened to cost her everything she thought she was tired of.
Thanks in large part to a strong cast, however, particularly Collette and Everett, the film sporadically shows moments of promise, mostly in improvised spurts of comedy that briefly break free from the formulaic narrative. But ultimately, as its conclusion reveals, there’s little room for originality in the film’s mercifully concise 81 minutes. In the final act, involving a game of Never Have I Ever with a group of millennials and a painfully forced homage to Sixteen Candles, Fun Mom Dinner sours from the type of fun mom you might have a few drinks with to the one who’s had one too many and is trying far too hard to be hip with the young crowd.