‘Baby Mama’ suffers from overwriting

So, we saw the movie Baby Mama this afternoon. It’s not often that I sit down to write reviews, but the more I think about the movie, the more I think it deserves… something.

The film stars Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, both Saturday Night Live stars, but of course you knew that those ladies were in the film already — if you’ve seen any of the trailers. What you may not have known is that other quality stars like Greg Kinnear, Sigourney Weaver and Steve Martin have significant roles in the film. They make the film more enjoyable, but not even Martin’s random, Zen-following, name-dropping, surfer, hippie boss character can save the film from some fundamental flaws.

The film was written by SNL writing staff graduate Michael McCullers, whose pen also brought us the wit that was Undercover Brother and both Austin Powers sequels. McCullers also makes his directorial debut with Baby Mama, and while I’m no expert, I think his first-time jitters show a bit in the final cut of the film.

The movie revolved around Fey’s character, a single, mid-30s VP of an organic foods company who wants to have a baby. When her fertility doctor, played deftly by the PC guy from the Apple commercials (John Hodgman), tells her she’s got a one in a million shot of conceiving, she hires a surrogate womb, personified by Poehler, reveling in immature, club-hopping, junk food-addicted glory.

From there, the plot degrades into something involving a con job, a new organic market, fruit smoothies, random snatches of Steve Martin, karaoke and a doorman. Sure, you can follow the plot through to its inevitable, family-friendly ending, but you might wonder what all that other business was about along the way.

The film suffers from too-much-going-on-for-its-own-good-itis. We learn that Kinnear’s smoothie shop owner was a former corporate lawyer who quit because of his conscience and likes to stay up late concocting strange new recipes. Poehler develops a strange friendship with Fey’s building’s doorman, who treats Fey like she’s the only person living in the building. Weaver, who plays the owner of the surrogate service, plays an overly-fertile woman in her 40s and the butt of more than a few age-related jokes.

Meanwhile, Poehler’s trashy common law husband, played by Dax Shepard, shows up from time to time to remind us that a) he’s a redneck who just wants to take Fey for her money and b) he’s still in the movie, somewhere — as are Maura Tierney and Holland Taylor as Fey’s sister and mother, though you wouldn’t know it from the random assortment of gags, bits and scenes congealed into Baby Mama.

Oh, there’s even a courtroom scene. Did you see that one coming? Neither did I. Although, you might see the odds-defying end of the movie coming about a half an hour before credits roll.

Is it funny? Sometimes. Enjoyable? Sure. I’d even recommend it if you can’t get tickets for the Narnia sequel or don’t want to watch Iron Man again. However, if you’re looking for a good, coherent film, wait for Indiana Jones next week.

Grade: C-


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