The Good: Funny, Moments of character, Themes
The Bad: Acting is largely mediocre, Fairly predictable plot, DVD is light on bonus materials.
The Basics: When Kate wants to have a baby, but is told that she only has a one in a million chance of conceiving, she hires Angie to act as a surrogate, which leads to many comedic hijinks.
I might not be much of a fan of comedy films (in general), but my wife very much is into humor. Her DVD library is very much biased toward comedy movies and television shows. One of her favorites purchased from a discount DVD bin is Baby Mama. I understand how the economics of the DVD market works; when a movie comes out on DVD, there is a demand for it, but the price is usually at its highest. Then, after demand has dropped, extra units are sold off dirt cheap or a movie that is already well in the black is discounted in order to make a lot of profit without a lot of cost to consumers. While it is usually very easy for me to discern why a movie is in the discount bin – for example, in the case of Bride Wars (reviewed here!), that is the only way people would spend money on the movie! - Baby Mama seems like it would not deserve to be available for $5 or less on DVD.
Then again, it is a much more average comedy film than it is distinctive or compelling in any way. So, despite being populated by an impressive cast of Saturday Night Live-alums, Baby Mama is a tougher sell for a permanent collection . . . at regular DVD prices.
Kate chose the executive path for her life, but now at 37, she wants a baby. Her doctor, however, in forms her that the odds of her successfully getting pregnant are astronomical. So, she begins to look into other alternatives; most seriously, surrogacy. Kate chooses Angie as a surrogate and is initially excited when it seems that the implantation has taken. But soon, Angie’s personal life is interfering with Kate’s life. Angie and her commonlaw husband Carl have a fight and Kate offers Angie a place to stay.
With the move, Kate begins to assert more control over Angie’s life (especially her diet and health), much to the annoyance of Angie. As Kate works to get a new Round Earth store built and figure out a relationship with Rob, the owner of a local juice bar, she tries to manage Angie. But Angie has a secret and as Carl threatens to expose the truth, Angie’s sweet ride may come to an abrupt end.
Baby Mama is a generally funny movie that served as a vehicle for Tina Fey after 30 Rock began and was successful. It represents a chance for her to reunite with Amy Poehler and other Saturday Night Live performers, like Fred Armisen (who has a brief cameo role). And Baby Mama is very well cast. Fey is a believable executive-track woman and Amy Poehler is convincingly underclass as Angie. The supporting cast, which includes Sigourney Weaver, Steve Martin, Dax Shepard, Greg Kinnear, Romany Malco and Maura Tierney, is an impressive one, but they frequently outshine the headliners.
As much as I enjoy the works of Tina Fey, Baby Mama does more to illustrate that she is something of a one-trick actress than give her any real range. Fey’s role in Baby Mama is one that she presents virtually identically to her role of Liz Lemon on 30 Rock. There were several points in Baby Mama where I expected Fey’s Kate to grumble “nerds!” It does not happen, but much of her part in Baby Mama has the feel of “Liz Lemon Hires A Surrogate.”
In a similar fashion, Amy Poehler’s role in Baby Mama is hardly an audacious step for her as an actress. In fact, she slips into the part of Angie very easily and Poehler plays all of the ridiculous aspects of Angie’s character in a very familiar way through the bulk of the film. It does not help that part of Angie’s character arc is ridiculously predictable; Angie comes to want to keep the baby inside her instead of give it to Kate, as she is contracted to. With the character aspects seeming so familiar, the acting could save the role, but Poehler takes it in a predictable and very familiar direction.
Steve Martin, on the other hand, plays a delightfully zany, scene-stealing role in Baby Mama. As Kate’s employer, Barry, Martin shines by delivering many of the funniest lines in the film. Moreover, Martin is not using his physical comedy and the cerebral and odd Barry is quite different from other characters he has played. Steve Martin and Tina Fey play off one another exceptionally well in Baby Mama.
Baby Mama quickly mortgages its more serious elements, which skirt at addressing the glass ceiling/women in the corporate workplace issues and a theme of corporate greed (Rob is firmly anti-big business and Kate clearly wants to lean in that direction, but does not see herself as part of the problem that Rob details). In the place of fleshing out more of a statement from the film, Baby Mama includes ridiculous scenes like Kate and Angie going to Lamaze classes together where an instructor with a pretty severe accent (or impediment) dispenses zany birthing advice. For a movie that starts out feeling smart and funny, Baby Mama quickly goes for keeping the laughs coming, as opposed to delving deeper into any of the more serious themes. That makes sense, as Baby Mama is a comedy, but the whole scam aspect of Angie and Carl’s characters is unfortunately not funny and dominates the latter half of the film.
In the end, Baby Mama is not bad by any means, but it is not extraordinary either. This is a pretty amusing comedy that is entirely average. “Average” is the hallmark of the $5 bin, which might explain how Baby Mama got there!
For other works with Sigourney Weaver, be sure to check out my reviews of:
The Cabin In The Woods
The Alien Quadrilogy
For other movie reviews, be sure to visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the films I have reviewed!
© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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