Reviews Sep 08 2008 @ 12:30 pm
Directed By: Michael McCullers
Written By: Michael McCullers
Starring: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler
Running Time: 99 minutes
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, language and a drug reference
This review was originally published June 7, 2008.
What words come to mind when I say “movie starring several Saturday Night Live veterans”? That’s right: “unbelievable, indescribable awfulness.” I’m sure several of you will jump to mention exceptions (Wayne’s World and Anchorman come to mind, of course), but these are the exceptions that prove the rule. If you lined up every SNL-star-starring movie side-by-side, I guarantee that a good 90% of them would suck.
Keep that in mind as you watch Baby Mama, and you’ll be in awe of the movie’s quality.
Now please don’t get me wrong on this one—Baby Mama is not a great film by any means (after all, I’ll lose my credibility as an Internet movie critic if I admit to loving a film that has no obvious connections to France). It’s not even a particularly memorable film, unless you’re the sort of person who’ll never forget the image of Tina Fey singing a horrible karaoke rendition of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”. It is, however, a solid “fun” movie. Most of its characters are likable. Most of its jokes don’t fall flat. Most of its drama is believable. And—I’m sorry, I just can’t get over this—it has not one, but two former SNL stars, and it doesn’t suck.
The SNL stars in question are, of course, Tina Fey, who plays Kate Holbrook, a single, middle-aged yuppie desperate to have a baby, and Amy Poehler, who plays Angie Ostrowiski, Kate’s “surrogate” whom she hires to carry her baby to term. Everything seems to be going well for these two, until the very-white-trash Angie decides to leave her boyfriend Carl (Dax Shepard), and moves in with Kate.
If screenwriter and first-time director Michael McCullers had stopped there, this could have been a great film. He’s set us up for all sorts of potentially hilarious Odd Couple-style conflict. Unfortunately, it appears he doesn’t really know how to mine this comedic gold, as he feels the need to add several more twists to the plot—none of which are needed, and all of which serve as mere distractions from what’s actually funny here. Angie has to be involved in a scam. Kate has to fall in love, thus saving her from her workaholism (and we all collectively roll our eyes). And, of course, the whole thing has to end in a courtroom.
The result is a script that just doesn’t know when to quit. The whole thing feels too busy to really develop the way it wants to—sort of like if Juno got trapped in the body of an Adam Sandler comedy. This should have been a comedy about pregnancy and motherhood, but it ends up just being a comedy about…um…a bunch of…stuff. It’s not bad by any means, but it’s frustrating to know that it could have been a lot better than it is, were it just a bit more focused.
Fey, Poehler and the rest of the cast (Siobhan Fallon-Hogan and Romancy Malco are particularly good) do their best with the material here, injecting a great deal of life into characters that are little more than stereotypes (essay question: Is this necessarily a bad thing? Discuss.), but unfortunately it’s pretty inconsistent. This, again, is a script problem, not a cast problem: the characters are simply required to act completely differently in each scene, with little to no regard for their respective arcs. Again, this is just a slight annoyance, not a huge problem, but it’s one more thing that keeps the movie from being great.
With all that in mind, I’m still not terribly reluctant to say that I enjoyed Baby Mama, and I’m not opposed to recommending it. Obviously, you could do better, but Fey and Poehler really overcome the material here to put in memorable performances. Add to that the presence of a birthing instructor with a serious lisp, and you’ve got a winner here. And of course, if you ever regret choosing this one, just remind yourself that you could be watching The Ladies Man. That’ll make you feel better.