Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Tina Fey, Amy
Poehler, Greg Kinnear, Dax Shepard, Sigourney Weaver, Steve Martin, Maura
Director: Michael McCullers
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: U-Control, Commentary
Length: 99 Minutes
Release Date: September 9, 2008
“Our fee is $100,000.”
“It costs more to have someone born than to have someone killed!”
“It takes longer.”
It’s not hard to guess that Baby Mama was a product of Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels…not just because of the stars, but because the whole movie plays out like an SNL skit pushed to the breaking point. It plays like a collection of tried and true gags based on women in business, pregnancy, hormones and relationships, all strung together on the flimsiest and most predictable of plots.
Kate Holbrook (Fey) is 37, single, and rising in the ranks of her organic food company (headed by the strangely alienating Martin), but she lacks a child. Her doctors tell her she’s unable to conceive, and adoption takes years, so she ends up at a service for surrogates headed by an aging woman who has ironically just discovered her own fertility (another strangely alienating Weaver).
The service provides her with a spacey, trash talking gal named Angie (Poehler), and you think, why not? If you’re only going to spend a hundred grand for such a service, why expect quality? But the strange notion the story takes is that Angie and her loser boyfriend (Shepard) are actually planning to fake the pregnancy and take the money. It’s been years since I’ve had human anatomy, but doesn’t that scheme have a very limited shelf life? I mean, you can only pretend pregnancy so long before you actually have to produce something, right?
But I wouldn’t be spoiling anything for sharper readers if I delved more into the clichéd storyline, including that both Angie and Kate eventually get pregnant for real, or that Kate would finally find a nice man (Kinnear) who, gosh darn it all, just gives a soliloquy about how horrible surrogate parenting is to Kate, while not knowing Kate is in the process. Cue strings.
Being unoriginal and predictable might not have been a death sentence for a movie like this if it had only been funny, and given the quality of the leading ladies, you would expect at least that much. It’s hard to believe that actors as talented as Fey and Poehler would take on such a project without taking it over and making it funny. Here, they just seem to do what was asked, cashed their checks and moved on.
Lorne Michaels has an iffy track record at best when it comes to producing films. I don’t think he’s learned yet that it takes more than some popular and talented stars to make an unworkable idea work. Baby Mama has all the appeal of a week old used diaper that wasn’t big enough to cover Michaels’ butt this time.
This Blu-ray offers decent quality in the visual department…there’s not a lot in the movie that makes demands of high definition, except a few Christmas-oriented shots near the end (gee, another cliché!). Color schemes aren’t particularly strong for the most part, but they come across clean and naturally, with just a touch of noticeable grain and film texture here and there.
Likewise, not a lot is required of the uncompressed DTS audio, but dialogue is well delivered against minimal dynamic range. A few great tunes interjected at timely intervals livens up the experience.
The disc includes an amusing commentary with Fey and Poehler along with Lorne Michaels and writer/director Michael McCullers. There is also Universal’s exclusive U-Control feature, which can give you extra pop-up picture-in-picture interviews and behind-the-scenes looks.
Baby Mama seems more like a beginning writer’s school exercise than a produced Hollywood screenplay. It doesn’t offer much of anything in the way of laughs or original ideas, and the appeal of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler can only go so far in masking that.