Arts+Movies » Film Reviews

FILM REVIEW: Baby Mama

Dread Baby Jokes: The latest installment of estro-comedy

by

comment

Baby Mama
Starring Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Sigourney Weaver, Greg Kinnear
Directed by Michael McCullers
Rated PG-13

In the wake of Knocked Up and Juno comes Baby Mama, another film centered on psychologically-fraught reproduction. Baby Mama stars Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as two women on opposite ends of the socioeconomic spectrum who decide to make a baby together.

A delicious dichotomy, Tina Fey's comic charm lies in her mix of prissiness and enough familiarity with the gutter-mouthed side of life to keep things interesting. In Baby Mama the priss is in the house, with Fey playing one half of a classic odd couple. A driven Philadelphia executive desperate to have a child, Kate Holbrook (Fey) is deep in the throes of baby lust: She sees babies everywhere, babies that taunt her with her own infertility.

An unkind sperm bank doctor informs the 37-year-old past her freshness date that her uterus is out of whack and a homegrown baby is out of the question. So Kate outsources. She contracts with cultish surrogate mama-broker Chaffee Bicknell (Sigourney Weaver) to lease a suitable uterus.

As the baby oven, Angie Ostrowiski (Amy Poehler) comes with an ethnic name and all the traits you'd expect in a Hollywood comic portrayal of white trash: a crude, greaser boyfriend, a taste for junk food, a love of trash TV, a wardrobe of stripper clothes, and a mega-fertile body.

Kate is both ravenous to commandeer Angie's womb and repulsed by her hillbilly lifestyle. When boyfriend-trouble ensues, Angie moves in with Kate and the Felix-and-Oscar dynamic kicks into high gear. Kate is desperate to force-feed Angie organic food like a pig readied for the slaughter, while Angie clings to her Pepsi and Ho Hos.

Though Angie is a fairly stereotypical blue-collar gal, Fey brings more comic dimension to her hellbent yuppie with control issues. More incisive than your usual chick flick, Baby Mama's most satisfying element is its skewering of yuppie organic food and sage-burning, morally superior PC values that extend from Kate's religious belief in the powers of organic food to the obsession with non-medicated childbirth.

Kate is a high-powered executive at a Whole Foods-style corporation, the Round Earth Organic Market, owned by a New Age guru Rob (Steve Martin), who rewards executives who have performed well with touchy-feely pseudo-spiritual eye contact and hangs with Jimmy Buffett and Oprah in his downtime. A "birthing" instructor (Siobhan Fallon) with a speech impediment is given a similar satirical treatment, though Kate's love interest, a lawyer-turned-indie Super Fruity juice bar owner (Greg Kinnear) is only batted around with kitten paws.

Less amusing are mommy jokes about baby-proofing Kate's apartment and the labored efforts of the director to continually express the women's comic differences: Angie likes karaoke video games and clubbing, Kate likes work.

Baby Mama's principal issue is in not being written by Fey, who showed a real knack for digging deep into comic-tragic female behavior in her screenplay for the 2004 teen comedy Mean Girls. But Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me writer Michael McCullers doesn't have Fey's deft hand with estro-comedy.

While he does see something significant in the almost entirely sci-fi female-generated pregnancy where men are barely in the picture (what man faced with his wife's baby preparations hasn't also felt at times out of the loop?), his social commentary is only skin deep. One of the film's funniest moments may be the girl-on-girl, oozing romance of Lionel Richie and Diana Ross singing "Endless Love" as Kate lovingly watches Angie being artificially inseminated. The first female head writer in the history of Saturday Night Live, Fey and her SNL-mate Poehler do not always get the comedy they deserve, though they are undeniable good sports and often a pleasure to watch.

But the film's uber-corny poster art with the title spelled out in baby blocks may be an early indication of the middle-of-the-road yuks to come. While Poehler sucks on a Big Gulp, Fey looks on sheepishly and the effect is of a cartoonish poster for one of Schwarzenegger's fish-out-of-water films like Junior or Kindergarten Cop and all of the conventionalized hilarity that implies.

Add a comment