Release Date: April 25
Director: Michael McCullers
Writer: Michael McCullers
Cinematographer: Daryn Okada
Starring: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Greg Kinnear, Dax Shepard
Studio/Run Time: Universal, 96 mins.
Given the popularity of 30 Rock and the pseudo-rebirth of Saturday Night Live, high expectations are inevitable for Tina Fey's first big screen starring role
. But while she and co-star Amy Poehler are certainly a likable pair of opposites, they're stuck in the movie equivalent of a Top 40 pop song. Broad enough to appeal to everyone and with all offensive edges assiduously filed away, Baby Mama
is a cute maternal comedy that might have been much more.
Kate Holbrook (Fey) is a fast-rising VP at an organic grocery chain, but she's begun to pine for a baby more than a promotion. She's infertile ("I just don't like your uterus," says her doctor) and liable to expire before she's allowed to adopt. Luckily there's the Chaffee Bicknell agency, which matches Kate with Angie Ostrwosiski (Poehler), a slightly trashy woman ready to act as a surrogate mom.
Angie’s junk-food binges unsettle the ultra-organic Kate, but the yearning for motherhood pushes most concerns out of mind. Meeting Rob (Greg Kinnear), a juice bar owner and potential boyfriend, doesn’t help matters. Soon Angie is pregnant and crashing at Kate’s posh pad after breaking up with her lazy, scheming common-law husband (Dax Shepard).
The movie breezes through the setup, deliberately hits a few bumps in the road to make sure we're paying attention, pokes good-natured fun at a few parties (notably birthing coaches and paranoid expectant mothers) then wraps everything up in a pretty bow at the end. But hey, that's been the mainstream comedy formula for decades.
The developing friendship between Kate and Angie seems forced and assumed, but that’s because the movie knows we expect that to happen and just gets on with it. And though Fey and Poehler let a few memorably ribald lines slip through, this primarily feels like the movie for family members that thought Knocked Up was too dirty.
If Baby Mama often feels more like a TV movie, thanks in part to Michael McCullers’ straight-arrow direction, at least it doesn't fall into the classic SNL movie black hole. A capable supporting cast keeps things moving without desperately grabbing at the spotlight. SNL's own Fred Armisen is given an unsatisfyingly brief moment, but Shepard and Romany Malco (as Kate’s doorman) deliver consistent comic bits, Sigourney Weaver grabs a few laughs and Steve Martin steals scenes with the best work he's done in a decade.
The supporting cast serves as a nice bonus, but the brief flashes of cutting wit from Fey and Poehler suggest that this might have been more than a fluffy, friendly riff on motherhood. Baby Mama’s jokes are too broad to deliver any serious insight or memorable observation, though they’ll cause a lot of grins and a few big laughs. That’s enough to pass the time; just see how much of the film you can remember two hours later.