Director: Michael McCullers
We’ve had films about planning the perfect wedding, meeting the in-laws and even tracking down one’s biological parents but lately, using the popular “she’s having a baby” styled paradigm as a jumping off point, filmmakers have begun to tackle the issue of fertility that finds many loving, intelligent, and capable would-be parents having difficulty conceiving children.
While it’s used as a subplot of Helen Hunt’s far superior Then She Found Me, it’s the central plotline of writer/director Michael McCuller’s filmmaking debut, Baby Mama. McCullers, a contributing writer to the two Austin Powers sequels as well as Saturday Night Live, reunites with two SNL veterans Tina Fey and Amy Poehler for this likable yet forgettable female fluff offering that, despite its flaws, recently debuted as number one at the box office proving the vitality of female centric films in the sea of typically male dominated studio releases sure to overwhelm the multiplex when summer movie season officially begins tomorrow.
Assuredly less clever than Fey’s wry Mean Girls which the actress penned a few years earlier or even her witty TV series 30 Rock that, along with Thursday night’s other NBC hit The Office proves that the sitcom is far from dead in the wake of reality shows and criminal dramas. Baby Mama nonetheless serves as a mindless diversion sure to find an even larger audience on DVD and cable as there’s something distinctly small screen about the approach evidenced not only by the TV actress leads but also the familiar, unchallenging innocuous script.
Fey stars as Kate Holbrook, a successful career woman who’s dedicated her life to serving both the organic food company she works for but also its New Age, pony-tail wearing CEO played by Steve Martin who rewards his favorite employee by not only giving Kate the Vice Presidency in his Philadelphia based organic empire but also by trying to pass along his aura and positive vibes in sharing five minutes of uninterrupted eye contact with Fey. Martin, like a few of the other supporting players, are so broad that they seemed like celebrity walk-ons yet his humor was infectious and it’s hard to resist cracking at least a smile whenever he graces the screen.
With her newfound power, Kate becomes increasingly aware of the one thing that’s missing from her life. While most women’s magazines would have us believe it’s a man, Kate is more practical in viewing love as a pleasant bonus and one that takes a backseat to her overwhelming desire to have a child. After using her body as a pincushion injecting herself with the latest hormones during nine failed attempts at artificial insemination, Kate visits a surrogacy center run by Chafee Bicknell (Siguorney Weaver), a freakishly fertile older woman who charges clients one hundred thousand dollars in matching them with a fertility gifted woman who will bear their children.
It’s about this time that Kate encounters the trashy yet instantly likable Angie Ostrowiski (Amy Poehler), a high school dropout with a penchant for unusual shirt-vest fashion designs who, along with her self-proclaimed “inventor” boyfriend Carl (Dax Shepard)-- still bitter about Apple’s creation of the iPod-- decide that Angie will carry Kate’s egg. After a series of predictable complications, Angie arrives at Kate’s door to stay and the two women begin to resemble a modern day gender-reversal Oscar and Felix as junk food eating, Karaoke videogame playing Angie tries to teach the responsible, controlled Kate how to relax.
While the two women, whose obvious mutual respect for one another’s talent really play off each other well, McCuller’s screenplay doesn’t take advantage of their chemistry to the fullest, sending the two to navigate bumpy terrain in their burgeoning friendship as secrets are revealed and new characters, including a nearly wasted Greg Kinnear as Fey’s love interest, are thrown into the overcrowded plot. Although it's hardly one of the more memorable films the women have made, one can do much worse and I disagreed with the level of disdain most critics seemed to have for Baby Mama in the initial reviews. The bottom line is, although one will most likely forget a majority of it by the time they hit the parking lot, it’s still refreshing to see a female driven comedy that, with its very existence, may help green-light other comedies by and for women. Thus, to this end and without making us play those silly baby shower games, Baby Mama succeeds in its ability to attract ticket holders to Fey and Poehler's delivery room.