Baby-making buddy comedy.
Kate (Tina Fey, 30 Rock) is a highly successful modern woman, drawing big bucks as an executive vice president for a health food corporation. But when she succumbs to the beckoning of her biological clock and is dismayed to learn that procreating is a near impossibility, her maternal instinct guides her to a surrogate: the wild, sort of white-trashy Angie (Amy Poehler, Upright Citizens Brigade).
Polar opposites that they are, drawn closer by Angie’s agreement to carry Kate’s offspring, and, as you can guess, those c-r-r-r-r-r-r-azy personalities bump and grind — and the men in their lives (Greg Kinnear and Dax Shepard) are caught in the whirlwind.
Baby Mama had a lot going against it. Forget the pressure on the two stars that have never been tasked with shouldering the load for a feature film in tandem like this before. Or the sorry state of the buddy comedy genre these days (maybe Bulletproof was the last one I remember sort of laughing at and it actually sort of sucked). No, the biggest obstacle for Fey and Poehler and company was the fact I had just previously watched The Love Guru, another 2008 comedy that so sucked the air out of my living room, I and everyone around me were prepared to savage Baby Mama simply because it was a comedy made in 2008.
But the good news is this movie is funny. And it’s not stupid funny like Deuce Bigelow or Corky Romano or any number of moronic feature comedies to be birthed by former SNL stars. Baby Mama is a smart, grown-up, witty affair, sporting more than a few laugh-out-loud moments and a surprising amount of authentic drama. While either of those aspects aren’t hit out of the park — the flick isn’t gut-busting hilarious or tear-inducing sentimental — no theme lacks so much as to bring the counterpart down. Basically, this is a chick flick (hey, it’s about the maternal instinct and a mismatched pair of gal pals, after all) that will almost certainly keep the fellas entertained. Gentlemen — seize this opportunity!
Fey and Poehler are no doubt talented and can certainly claim to be in the discussion of “funniest women in entertainment,” but that’s not really a fair description — they’re funny period, regardless of gender, and if you’ve seen them in their respective gigs, 30 Rock, SNL or Upright Citizens Brigade, this fact is easily attestable. The two play to their strengths here. Fey is the insecure, “straight man,” tasked with the biting one-liners, and Poehler does much of the goofball, slapstick humor. None of it ever seems forced, and the set pieces never get too bizarre; my favorite is the hospital trip at the end with Poehler’s stream-of-consciousness exclamations (“It feels like I’m s — — — — a knife!”). Kinnear and Shepard are good in supporting roles, the former occupying the necessary love interest slot and the latter, well, just stealing scenes with his Jerry Springer-like behavior.
And, to writer/director Michael McCullers’ credit, there is streak of real feeling injected in the comedy. This is, after all, about a woman wanting to bring a child into the world and there are major emotions tagged to that. Plus, McCullers weaves in a few twists that spruce up a plots that shakes out just as you’d expect a formula baby movie to — or is it baby formula movie?
A stout Blu-ray offering from Universal, highlighted by the clean 1.85:1 widescreen transfer that isn’t quite perfect (there’s a softness to the picture quality) but an upgrade nonetheless. This is a bright film peppered with lots of “baby colors” (pinks, blues, etc.), translating well in 1080p. Sound: a DTS HD 5.1 lossless audio that’s sharp of course, but as in other comedies, much of the mix is front-loaded, aside from the occasional montage musical selection or, maybe, frolicking in a ball pit. Two extras: a commentary with Fey, Poehler, McCullers and Lorne Michaels and a U-Control picture-in-picture feature (interviews and on-set footage), which is implemented better than any other PiP I’ve seen on Blu, but sadly lacks content.
Not guilty.The simple fact that I was able to laugh again after just watching The Love Guru is a testament to how well-conceived this charming comedy is.