April 25th, 2008 5:33 pm | by SAUNDRA SORENSON News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP

Womb for Improvement: Baby Mama Reviewed

Film Title: Baby Mama

The latest comedic romp into Pregnancyland was screened for critics Tuesday. Saundra Sorenson reports:

A dear friend recently observed—with all the panache of a frat boy—that pregnancy is back on the map. I hesitate to relate the rest of that conversation, but if we're talking comedy fodder, that statement rings true. Whether in its unexpected, teen or very-intentional-and-very-pricey form, yeah, pregnancy is pretty damn funny.

But with every new release whose premise centers on a fruitful womb, I find myself let down. Knocked Up missed comedic gold by ignoring the female contingent of its cast; Juno more or less dodged the abortion issue (when, given the protagonist's voice, it really could've been mined for the better part of the film) and Baby Mama—well, surrogate parenting is overdue for a black comedy in the truest sense, if not the full-out Lynchian treatment.

Knocked Up preyed on a common male fear—that you'll sex something with tits who will then inexplicably decide to keep the resulting spawn (with absolutely no thought process or logic for doing so, as women are so wont to do—am I right, ladies?). Tina Fey's channeling of the preggo zeitgeist taps into a more demo-specific female fear: of becoming so damn successful, and so damn monied, that you up and forget to have babies and will get to the ripe old age of 37—you know, that fertility no-man's land—where spunk and good looks do nothing to cure baby fever when it hits you with the force of a thousand CCs of estrogen, but your uterus lets you down.

Capitalizing on her well-deserved rising star as writer/ensemble leader on TV's 30 Rock, and the less justified buzz appeal she garnered for Mean Girls, Fey teams up with former SNL Weekend Update partner Amy Poehler to explore and exploit that bizarre plan b (or c) known as surrogate pregnancy. As Kate Holbrook, Fey extends the career-focused, sexy-but-not-in-the-world-she-happens-to-inhabit, sweetly cynical character that's served her so well and brought "sexy librarian chic" back into rotation. After giving us a quick spiel about how doing everything right professionally will bite a woman in the ass personally, the never-married Kate pragmatically approaches an adoption agency, then a surrogacy firm, and is offered Angie Ostrowiski (Poehler), a trashy, high-fructose-corn-syrup-swiggin' would-be fashion designer, as a womb. Angie comes complete with her very own common law hubbie (Dax Shepard), whom she predictably walks out on, turning to Kate's limitless hospitality (but don't worry, Shepard cameos abound, and we don't have to do without him for too long). Meanwhile Kate, neck-deep in a promotion, starts romancing local smoothie-maker Rob (Greg Kinnear). Talk about multi-tasking!

Relocate 30 Rock to Philly, replace Alec Baldwin's wicked GE exec with a new agey Steve Martin and revisit the episode where Liz Lemon accidentally kidnaps a coworker's baby, sand down the satirical edges, and you've got yourself your Baby Mama, at least in spirit. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, assuming you're a fan of what you're signing up for. The film is peppered with venerable actors whose careers have stalled a bit (Sigourney Weaver as the excessively fertile founder of Kate's surrogacy clinic), as well as an Apatow fixture, Romany Malco, as a game-for-anything doorman with his fair share of—yes—baby mama drama.

But for the sprog, Baby Mama's set-up is the classic tale of a hard-partying wild child drawing her more bookish buddy out for a few nights out on the town. Fey and Poehler play to odd-couple stereotypes, and their palpable chemistry carries the film. Again, the surrogacy issue provides fertile grounds (oh! Low-five!) for a biting satire (who are these people who throw down a hundred Gs for their own kid?), but most of the insightful social observation is left up to a dismissive Kinnear during morning-after chatter.

Then again, who wants to really explore surrogacy—and the inherently depressing scenario of having to not only choose, but pursue, raising a child alone—without the cheap relief of a rom-com story arch, and Fey's self-deprecating pot shots? SAUNDRA SORENSON.

Baby Mama is rated PG-13. It opened today at Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Century Eastport 16, Cinema 99 Stadium 11, Cinemas Bridgeport Village Stadium 18 & IMAX, City Center Stadium 12, Cornelius 9 Cinemas, Division Street Stadium 13, Evergreen Parkway Stadium 13, Hilltop 9 Cinema, Lloyd Center Stadium 10 Cinema, Movies On TV Stadium 16, Oak Grove 8 Cinemas, Pioneer Place Stadium 6, Sandy Cinemas, Sherwood Stadium 10, Tigard 11 Cinemas, and Wilsonville Stadium 9 Cinema.
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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