Baby Mama - *1/2
Talk about a wasted opportunity.
“Baby Mama” tells the story of Kate Holbrook (Tina Fey), the successful VP of an organic food store chain who desperately wants a baby. Everywhere she looks she sees babies. She can’t help but gaze at them and wish they were hers. Of course, since this is a movie, Kate can’t actually have a baby herself. Besides the fact that she doesn’t have a man in her life, she also has a problematic uterus, a fact her unsympathetic fertility doctor seems to enjoy telling her. (And come on, how realistic is an unsympathetic fertility doctor to begin with? Isn’t “Sympathy-101” the first class any aspiring fertility doc takes?)
Kate is so desperate that she seeks the services of Chaffee Bicknell (Sigourney Weaver), who, for $100,000, will unite her with a surrogate mother to carry her child. Enter Angie Ostrawiski (Amy Poehler), a white trash (what else?) opportunist with a deadbeat boyfriend (Dax Shepard). In one of those scenes that only happen in movies, Kate somehow seems to think, despite the warning signs all around her, that Angie is the perfect woman to put her baby into.
Well, surprise, surprise, things go comically awry, and before you know it, Angie ends up living with Kate and, through the funny business that follows, they each learn a little something about life.
Let’s face it: those people who have gone through the trauma of trying to unsuccessfully conceive a child or navigated other fertility options know this can be a stressful situation. This is not to say that a comedy about the trials and tribulations of becoming a parent is off limits. Quite the opposite. It can be (pardon the expression) really "fertile" territory to explore.
“Baby Mama” doesn’t carry one shred of realism in it. There’s nothing in this movie to grab onto to make us care about these characters. Michael McCullers, who wrote and directed the film, throws a bunch of stereotypes at us instead of taking the time to maybe consider an actual, human emotion.
Tina Fey is a smart presence onscreen, and she is about the best thing in the movie. But even she can’t rise above the low bar the film sets for itself. Amy Poehler can be terrifically funny and over-the-top in her characters, but she’s all over the place here. It’s as if she knows this is her opportunity to really “act” the role, but it comes across as forced and doesn’t mesh well with the broader aspects of her "hick" character.
The supporting actors do what they can, but it’s a losing battle. Steve Martin is woefully unfunny as Fey’s new age-y boss. Sigourney Weaver has a few good moments, as does Greg Kinnear. His romantic scenes with Fey are among the best moments in the movie. But Maura Tierney, as Fey’s sister, is completely wasted.
It all comes down to tone, and this movie cannot seem to settle on one. Either it’s a lunatic Apatow-like farce, or a sweet, truthful romantic comedy. Of course, a skilled filmmaker might be able to merge these two together. In fact, it HAS been done. Instead of wasting your hard-earned cash on this dud, skip down to the video store and rent “Raising Arizona.”
Baby Mama. Stars: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Greg Kinnear. Dir./Scr.: Michael McCullers. Rated PG-13.