Baby Mama (2008) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, language and a drug reference
Running time: 99 min
Cast: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Greg Kinnear, Dax Shepard, Romany Malco, Sigourney Weaver, Steve Martin, Maura Tierney, Stephen Mailer, Holland Taylor
Cameo: Will Forte, Fred Armisen
Director: Michael McCullers
Screenplay: Michael McCullers
Review published September 13, 2008
Tina Fey (Mean Girls, Aqua Teen Hunger Force) and Amy Poehler (Horton Hears a Who, Hamlet 2), the stars of SNL's "Weekend Update," make the jump to movie stars in their own vehicle, and while it is a very hit-and-miss affair, it at least does fare better than most of the recent crop of films starring current "Saturday Night Live" regulars. Directed (first time) and scripted by SNL veteran writer Michael McCullers (screenwriter for Thunderbirds and Goldmember), Baby Mama very much feels like a conglomeration of small skits revolving around the desire to have a baby rather than a focused storyline. Luckily, it's funny enough in small doses to accumulate the laughter required to make it a worthwhile outing for those looking for a few yuks, though if judged solely as a film, it's too disjointed to proclaim as anything more than passable entertainment, particularly as it loses steam through a woefully forced "Whose baby is it anyway?" court case ending.
Fey stars as 37-year-old, single, want-to-be mother Kate, a newly-crowned VP for an organic food corporation in Philadelphia, who uses her big raise to fund a surrogate pregnancy when all other options have failed due to a genetic defect that renders her extremely unlikely of conceiving. With her biological clock perpetually pounding, she shells out $100k for a professional company to perform the duties, and though they insist their surrogates are carefully screened, Kate ends up with Angie, an uneducated, "white trash" slob who practically refuses to give up any of her bad habits in order to benefit the child's in utero development. There is a reason: Angie's only pretending to be carrying the baby so that she can get away from her no-good common law husband, Carl (Shepard, Employee of the Month), for a place to stay and be cared for. This odd couple's shenanigans do not make for the most ideal environment.
Some might be quick to proclaim the film as the lighter, friendlier (and less funny) version of Judd Apatow's Knocked Up. Crass humor abounds, but it's still relegated to PG-13 status, even with the requisite poo, pee and puke gags that seem to run rampant in baby-making comedies. Much of one's feeling towards the film will most likely be influenced by one's feeling towards its two stars, Fey and Poehler, as the vehicle rides on their personalities for laughs much more so than through anything written in the script. If you consider them to be appealing and hilarious in other forms, you'll likely consider Baby Mama time well spent. If you find them grating or unfunny, you'll most likely feel the same about the film.
Though the storyline at the center of the film isn't particularly fresh or funny, where the film scores its laughs is through the supporting character comments and pop culture asides. Steve Martin (The Pink Panther, Shopgirl) dishes out an oddly amusing spin on the corporate magnate guru who believes that his success is somehow a gift that can be transferred to others by his whim (he even rewards his employees through extended eye contact). Romany Malco (Blades of Glory, The Ex) gets a chance to continue his homeboy schtick as the doorman to Kate's high-rise apartment building (though he is rarely at the door), putting in such quips as the dangers of listening to too much DMX during the pregnancy (he'll come out growling menacingly). "Karaoke Revolution", health food, Jamba Juice, baby safety products and other bits of pop are sent up for laughs, and are acute enough in their delivery to provide ample amusement to forgive the lack of laughs generated by the core plot.
McCullers' approach to direction in his first outing is awkward, but gets the job done. One thing that he seems to enjoy shooting more than anything else is Tina Fey's legs, which he finds reason to showcase in nearly every scene she is in, and even writes in a line later in the film about her having great legs. Walking up steps, in a short skirt, climbing onto a table to sit, there's no shortage of gratuitous gams for leg fetishists.
I'll conclude by stating that at no time did I consider Baby Mama to be of good quality as a whole, there were enough moments of enjoyment for me to give the film a recommendation to those inclined to want to see a Fey/Poehler team up in film. If that has no appeal to you, it's probably too scattershot in approach and predictable in execution to deliver anything more than a sporadically modest diversion. Like the act of childbirth, it delivers the goods, though not without the requisite moments of pain and general messiness.
©2008 Vince Leo