Word to your Mama.
Director: Michael McCullers
Notable Cast: Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Greg Kinnear, Dax Shepard, Romany Malco, Sigourney Weaver, Maura Tierney
Like its buzzword title Baby Mama starts out as a seemingly fresh new addition to the cultural lexicon but before it plays its course it eventually becomes a derivative reinvention of the same old ideas. By the time the credits roll Baby Mama has become such a typical comedy that the filmmakers might as well have changed the title to the more honky friendly The Mother of My Child. Fortunately, with Tina Fey at the helm as writer as well as turning in her first lead-performance on the big screen, the film seems to have a self-awareness that prevents it from completely collapsing under the weight of standard genre expectations. However, Baby Mama cannot resist the temptation to bring the story to its conclusion in the safest fashion with the “Mega-Happy Ending”.
The film starts out with Fey as Kate, a single career-woman one day deciding she would like to have a baby. The catch is there is only a one in a million chance she could bear a child on her own. Remember that: one in a million. But her eggs are perfectly functional, so she hires a surrogate to carry her unborn child for her. Enter Amy Poehler as Angie, a white trash gal with great god-given childbearing abilities. Unfortunately, along with Angie comes her scheming common-law husband Carl (Dax Shepard, quickly becoming typecast as the most dimwitted deadbeat in America).
The two hatch a plan in which Angie fakes the pregnancy while cashing Kate’s checks. The shortsightedness of their plot is revealed after the Carl and Angie break up and Angie is invited to move in with Kate for the duration of the pregnancy. As Angie agonizes over how to tell Kate the truth they predictably begin bonding. On the way to an ultrasound, Angie is finally ready to reveal her shocking secret, but guess what: she’s preggers! Everything is going to work out fine, but wait, it’s not Kate’s baby!
With that information, Angie is suddenly interested in becoming a mother and intends to keep the baby. Yet Kate is still unaware of the situation and Baby Mama slowly burns to the big reveal. Of course any drama the film might have is undermined by the obvious, perfunctory happy-ending awaiting us. As luck would have it, Kate’s fling with Rob, a juice bar owner (Greg Kinnear), results in a pregnancy for Kate as well. Wait a minute, what was all that “one in a million” talk? But why worry about logic and offering something different when all the characters can get exactly what they want and come across as sympathetic while doing it? Looks like everything is going to work out alright after all, it was getting messy there for a moment.
Comedies would be so much better if they eliminated their trite third acts and replaced them with something more organic and meaningful. It would be unfair to suggest I expected something different from Fey and company because, honestly, it was easy to see Baby Mama was going to be clever and unique for the first hour and then cleanly wrap things up in the last half hour. Since comedy is usually so blatantly formulaic, it is easy to appreciate the good things about Baby Mama.
Along with the subject matter which should speak to this generation the same way something like Baby Boom spoke to baby boomers, there are a number of strong performances and quotable lines. Sigourney Weaver as the creepy, very fertile, founder of the surrogate company Kate goes through and Romany Malco as Kate’s token black doorman help enhance Fey and Poehler’s already awesome chemistry. There is also a hilarious cameo from an old comedic hand as Fey’s wacked-out hippie boss.
Baby Mama has enough substance and credentials to be a hit and will hopefully lead to more collaborations between Fey and Poehler. The comedy genre could certainly use more all-star lead actresses generating more female-friendly material that is smart without being pandering. The change would be a welcome one even if the third act will always stay the same.
FINAL RATING (ON A SCALE OF 1-5 BUCKETS):