Saturday, September 27, 2008

Movie Review: "Baby Mama"

Starring Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Greg Kinnear, Dax Shepard, Romany Malco, Sigourney Weaver and Steve Martin
Directed by Michael McCullers

Official Web site

Performing together for several years on “Saturday Night Live,” Amy Poehler and Tina Fey have proven to have sharp comedic skills and chemistry that served them well as co-anchors of “Weekend Update” on the long-running comedy show.

Their chemistry on that program would seem to make for a natural and obvious progression to performing together on the big screen. And while “Baby Mama” is far from a comedic masterpiece, it does provide a solid storyline that keeps the two actresses front and center for the entire film. That, in and of itself, is a rarity for big studio comedies.

In the film, Fey plays Kate Holbrook, a successful businesswoman for a large grocery store (think something like Whole Foods) who begins to hear her biological clock ticking very loudly. After some unsuccessful dealings with sperm banks, she turns to a surrogacy firm run by Chaffee Bicknell (Sigourney Weaver, in a good comic turn).

Kate is matched up with Angie Ostrowiski (Poehler), a generally unmotivated woman saddled with a selfish and constantly scheming husband (Dax Shepard). But for the whopping fee of $100,000, she gladly signs on to become a surrogate. Regarding the ridiculously high fee, Kate comments, “It costs more to have someone born than to have someone killed.” To which Bicknell responds, “It takes longer.”

Most of the movie’s humor stems from the developing friendship between the two seemingly wildly different women. Kate is straight-laced (some would say uptight), while Angie is much more free-spirited (some would say irresponsible). Naturally, the two begin to find they might have more in common than they first thought, as they begin to bond during the course of Angie’s pregnancy.

Adding to the impending baby situation is a developing relationship that Kate strikes with Rob Ackerman, a small business owner in a neighborhood where the grocery store is building a new location. The script by Michael McCullers, who also directed the film, has problems developing the romantic relationship, with Kinnear’s character mostly underdeveloped. With the film placing much of its focus on the Kate/Angie relationship, the budding romance mostly plays as an afterthought.

The surprises in “Baby Mama” are fairly mild, but the laughs do come consistently enough to keep audiences interested. The winning pairing of Poehler and Fey plays a large part in that. However, Steve Martin, in a small role, steals a lot of laughs as Kate’s kind of spacy boss. He’s very big on eye contact, seeing it as a kind of reward to give his fellow employees.

So while the film’s comedic possibilities are never fully realized, “Baby Mama” provides proof that with the right script, Poehler and Fey have got what it takes to become the next great comedic duo.

Grade: B
(Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, language and a drug reference.)

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