film review: Baby Mama


Not sure why I would think that a film called Baby Mama would be thoughtfully entertaining. I don’t know. I guess I was under the impression that Tina Fey is smart and witty (maybe she’s just best working her own material in television time) and BC graduate Amy Poehler can add a savvy spin to material. Baby Mama is written and directed by a dude, another SNL alum, Michael McCullers. The film has a few chuckles but quickly steers itself straight into the safe funny zone. The stereotypically safe funny zone.

You know women single and over 35 must be super successful “career women” and have given up on any sort of social life. All women want children. The whole infertility thing is just hysterical and so is pregnancy and giving birth, while we think of it. The jokes are so tired. And you’ve seen them before. I’m not a major fan of 30 Rock but I’ve enjoyed some of the episodes and thought Tina Fey might be a little different. She does make the successful single woman stylish at times on that show. Though even there you see the jokes from Alec Baldwin about her being a lesbian because she’s wearing pants or how she’s pathetic because she’s over 30 and single. Oh, it’s OVER honey.

I like to think that I’ve been picky. I have a brain. I have a heart. I use both in making my decisions. I have never had any male friends say that they don’t expect to meet anyone or that they’ve “given up on dating.” No, it’s only my girlfriends who have careers. Not everyone needs to be part of a couple or to have a family to be considered successful. Oh, I’m joking. Of course you have to check all those things off your list or you’re a real loser. Who doesn’t know that? I spend enough time in therapy. And I’m being so sarcastic, in case you didn’t figure it out. Yet sadly our American society does think that these are the things a woman must do– the career, marriage and family or there’s just something off, something wrong.

Kate Holbrook (Fey) wakes up one day and starts seeing babies everywhere and guess what? She realizes she wants one. And now. She is 37! So screw the whole finding a partner thing, she’s doing it solo. Unfortunately her doctor doesn’t “like” her uterus. Kate is an executive at a Whole Foods-style organic market in Philly. But she’s moving up the fast track to Vice-President of Development and been assigned the task to oversee the building of a flagship store. Kate decides to pay an exorbitant amount of money to a blue collar surrogate (Poehler) with a deadbeat boyfriend (Dax Shephard). Laughs ensue when Angie has problems with her boyfriend and moves in with Kate. Oh, an odd couple for the ages. This might have been amusing 20 years ago. It is just that dated and tired. The girl from the wrong side of the tracks finds herself in the enviable position of being able to sample the life she could have had. And the upwardly mobile single girl learns to loosen up her uptight ways and let her hair down. To Poehler’s credit she does not make Angie a complete caricature but fleshes her out to have a brain in the bleached blonde head.

Along the way, Kate meets Rob (Greg Kinnear), a local juice store owner/ex-lawyer. Cue in the obvious jokes about organic food, vegetarianism. It just is too good to have any flavor. Rob and Kate go on a first date to a raw food restaurant and the food is completely out there and unappealing which is so unrealistic. They end up getting cheese steaks at a street stand because being vegetarian just is not cool. Slapstick doesn’t suit him. Kinnear is the smart girl’s funny guy and slapstick doesn’t suit him. He belongs in a more sophisticated comedy. In an understated, easy going role, Steve Martin plays the new agey boss (he rewards employees with “five minutes of uninterrupted eye contact). Kate also has the black doorman/buddy (sexy Romany Malco from Weeds). She has to get a hip factor from someone.

Baby Mama has sight gag after sight gag—the bullet shaped sperm container, peeing in a toilet, “clubbing” in just plain 80s trashtastic outfits, not to mention all the moments in the birthing class and at the obstetrician’s office. Of course it’s written and directed by a dude.

So for Fey to think that this would be the perfect comedy to do with Poehler, is so unoriginal and so disappointing. Was it the easiest thing to do? To turn a SNL skit into a 90-minute film? To make obvious jokes about getting pregnant, infertility, being single, organic food? It’s 2008 and women apparently still cannot have it all Maybe Chelsea Handler needs to write a film. She’s definitely not apologetic about being single and not wanting children and having sex and having fun. I respect her for that.

In the Apatow-effect of filmmaking, we have the crude-ish jokes, the anti-feminist undertones and what on reflection to me seems like sheer distaste for even being a woman. It’s just not funny. Which means it’s going to do well at the box office. The general movie-going public is not all that bright. There are some ridiculous plot twists and a super tidy ending. I know going to the movies is an escape but the best escapes are also rooted in reality. You know you could maybe be in that moment. It’s a possibility. If you cannot relate to some aspect of a film, then the film has not done its job.

If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the film. Save your $10.00. I’ve just spent more time writing this review than enjoying Baby Mama.



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