Phew. There’s only four months left in the year, and I was seriously worried 2008 would pass by without a single movie about pregnancy. There was an absolute baby-smorgasbord last year, with Knocked Up, Waitress and Juno covering all possible bases on the “unwanted-pregnancy” angle. (P.S – Baby-smorgasbord is kind of a creepy-sounding term, but you’ve got to admit, there were A LOT of movies about babies last year). So what could Baby Mama possibly offer to cinema audiences that were already at maximum-cluckiness, or alternately, terrified of ever being intimate again. How about a movie in which someone actually WANTS to have a baby? Genius!
Tina Fey stars as Kate Holbrook, vice-president of a health food company who has put her career before her personal life. Now she’s 37, single, and wants a baby before its too late. After finding out she cannot have children, she decides to use a surrogate mother to carry her unborn child. Enter Angie (Poehler), a rough-around-the-edges South Jersey “fashion” designer. The two women are friendly enough to begin with, but when Angie leaves her deadbeat boyfriend (Shepard) and moves in with Kate, cracks begin to show in their odd-couple relationship.
At this point comes a plot twist that is pretty surprising. But that’s not a compliment. It’s surprising because it doesn’t really make any sense. Later on, another twist is piled upon that twist. I won’t spoil them here, but I will say The National Infertility Association made a statement after the film’s release, reminding people that the film is not biologically factual. But don’t worry – she doesn’t give birth to an alien or anything. I just thought I’d mention that.
The first 10-minutes of the film are particularly bad, but it does pick-up once Angie enters the mix. Like every other pregnancy film, this is basically a race to the delivery room. Throw in a romantic interest for Kate (Kinnear), some snappy back-and-forth between the leading ladies, and a completely unnecessary courtroom scene, and that’s the film. I wish I could remember some particularly funny lines or moments, but the movie isn’t really made to be remembered. In fact, I’m pretty sure I was forgetting each scene before it had even ended. This would be fine for any other inoffensive Hollywood comedy, but with a cast this great, is it so selfish to ask for something memorable?
Anyone who has seen Tina Fey’s work on 30 Rock or Amy Poehler’s on Saturday Night Live know these two are probably the funniest women in the world right now. Their pitch-perfect chemistry behind the newsdesk at Saturday Night Live is carried over here, but is weighed down by the sappiness of the film’s premise. They deserve a much better film than this.
The supporting cast also does their best with what they are given. Greg Kinnear is always likable, and Romany Malco saves himself from the comedy-graveyard that is The Love Guru by playing a kind-hearted doorman. Sigourney Weaver and Steve Martin also steal the show in too-small roles. The only weak link is Dax Shepard, who for some reason thinks he is starring in a very bad (and very racist) skit. Who keeps hiring this guy?
When THIS is the highlight of the film, you know you’ve got script problems.
Baby Mama is in no-way a bad film (the cast are far too good for that). However, it just seems like a waste. Is this the best possible film they could have made with these two enormous talents? Is another generic pregnancy film the only option for female comic actors? Male comedians have been given the brilliant (and imaginative) flicks Pinaepple Express and Tropic Thunder in the last couple of weeks alone. There has been only one other significant female-led comedy this year – Sex and the City: The Movie. I won’t share my thoughts on this film for fear of every woman I know beating me to a pulp (and they could do it too). I will say this – female comics deserve much better than what they are being given. However, considering 30 Rock (written and created by Fey) is the best comedy on television, and Poehler is about to star in a spin-off of The Office, maybe funny ladies are taking over our televisions instead? Sounds good to me. In the same spirit, maybe wait until you can see Baby Mama on TV aswell.