MOVIE REVIEW ★★ 1/2 ‘Baby Mama’ Delivers Laughs, But Gags Are Far From Newborn

Fey, Poehler and SNL Alums Fail to Make Film Edgy

1044 babymama 0
Kate Holbrook (Tina Fey) explains the rules to her surrogate, working girl Angie Ostrowiski (Amy Poehler), in “Baby Mama.”
K.C. Bailey—Courtesy Universal Pictures
1045 babymama 1
Single businesswoman Kate Holbrook (Tina Fey) is romanced by juice bar owner Rob (Greg Kinnear) in “Baby Mama.”
K.C. Bailey—Courtesy Universal Pictures

Baby Mama

Written and Directed by Michael McCullers

Starring: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Sigourney Weaver, and Greg Kinnear

Opening April 25th

My new favorite thing when looking up a movie is to read the plot keywords on IMDB. They are usually hilarious and often surprisingly able to sum up a movie. For example, the keywords posted for Baby Mama, the new comedy starring Tina Fey, are “pregnancy,” “toilet,” and “surrogate mother.” These three words are absolutely accurate; the movie is indeed about pregnancy and surrogacy, but it’s also so absurd that the word “toilet” is not out of place.

Baby Mama is set in Philadelphia and centers around a 37-year-old professional, Kate (Tina Fey). The deal is that Kate desperately wants a baby but has a messed up uterus. Enter Angie (Amy Poehler), the “baby mama,” who will carry Kate’s child for a hefty sum. All goes well at first … until we learn that Angie is actually a total nutjob and may not actually be pregnant with Kate’s baby. At the same time, a love interest for Kate is introduced in the form of Rob (Greg Kinnear), a smoothie shop owner who is apparently perfect for Kate. But what will he think of her baby-making plans? Anyway, the shit hits the fan at the baby shower, when all the lies are revealed. Then it is a race to a delivery scene and a big disgusting predictable happy ending!

Both Fey and Poehler are extremely likable in their roles and it is great to see the former Weekend Update co-anchors reunited. They are not only two of the funniest women in Hollywood, but also so good together! Kinnear, on the other hand, is under-utilized as the male lead. He can be both a great actor and comedian but here he is more of a placeholder than anything else. In addition to the leads, some additional wackiness is provided by the supporting roles. Steve Martin plays Kate’s hippie boss and in classic Steve Martin style doesn’t even have to open his mouth to get laughs. Sigourney Weaver also hams it up as the owner of a surrogate mother agency. Unfortunately, the needlessly obnoxious Dax Shepard is also in Baby Mama in the role of Angie’s white trash boyfriend. Maybe if we all continue to ignore Shepard he will just go away; I can only hope.

Tina Fey did not write Baby Mama herself, as some might think, although had she penned it, it probably would have been better. Instead the film was written and directed by Michael McCullers, who is best known for lending his writing talents to the Austin Powers series as well as Saturday Night Live. One can clearly see the SNL background in Baby Mama — not only because almost everyone in the film is or has been on the show, but also because of the outright ridiculousness of some of the characters and scenarios. SNL bravely continues to do a less subtle style of comedy that lacks self-awareness and that has perhaps lost its edge in the last decade. Sometimes they still get it right, but that is typically with the digital shorts or political satire while the rest of the sketches fall short. I wonder if Baby Mama’s SNL-esque brand of comedy can hold up versus edgier fodder like the latest Judd Apatow flick, Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

In the end, Baby Mama isn’t half bad, but it’s nothing special either. It is hard to not recommend this film as it does succeed in making you laugh, but the idea is a little tired and so are many of the gags.