Friday, April 25, 2008

Baby Mama (**1/2)

Written and Directed by Michael McCullers


For the last couple years, it seems that the aura of Tina Fey has continued to grow more and more. She became somewhat of a cult hit as the host of Weekend Update on "Saturday Night Live". She gained a lot of recognition, and a Writer's Guild nomination for her script for the teenage hit Mean Girls. She left SNL, and created the brilliant NBC sitcom "30 Rock", and plays the main character Liz Lemon--an ode to her geek chic style. "30 Rock" has won numerous Emmys, and Golden Globes, leading the way for Fey to headline a Hollywood motion picture for the first time in her career. It's a wonder it didn't happen sooner.

Joining her is fellow Second City comedienne, and former Weekend Update co-host Amy Poehler. Together they team up for the incredibly light film Baby Mama. The story is about Kate (Fey), an independent, wealthy woman who works for a health food company, but has been struck with a sudden case of baby fever, when she realizes her biological clock is ticking. She tries adoption, but can't seem to break through. She tries to get artificially inseminated, but her doctor has issues with her "T-shaped uterus", and claims she is infertile. Finally, Kate finds a solution to her problem.

She finds a surrogate mother program, led by an extremely fertile, but extremely strange older woman (Sigourney Weaver), who explains the process to Kate. That is when Kate comes into contact with Angie (Poehler), a coarse woman, with no manners and a slick tongue. Together, Kate and Angie decide that Angie will be the surrogate mother, and carry Kate's child. All seems well for Kate, when Angie becomes pregnant, but when Angie dumps her loser "common law" husband (Dax Sheppard), Angie decides to move into Kate's apartment.

There is plenty of odd couple moments between Kate and Angie (Angie sticks numerous pieces of chewed gum under Kate's coffee table), and they get under each other's skin on more than one occasion, but over time they come to understand and respect each other, forming a strong friendship. Weaving in and out of the story is Rob (Greg Kinnear), a fruit drink store owner who catches Kate's eye; and also, there is Oscar (Romany Malco), a doorman with a heart of gold and a strangely close relationship with the hotel's patrons.

It's a credit to the cast and their comic ability that this film comes off as funny and warm, since the story is framed by a script that is so incredibly mild and safe, that is guaranteed to only be liked by everybody or nobody. Nothing will surprise you, and everything unfolds so conventionally that there is never any real suspense to the story, whatever twists and turns that McCullers tried to throw in. Any fans of Fey's and Poehler's past comedy will be underwhelmed by this film's complete lack of bite, no doubt a technique used to agree with the most demographics possible.

But in the end, the chemistry between Fey and Poehler is infectious, as well as hilarious. Fey proves once again that she can be a very dependable actress when she is put in her comfort zone, and Kate is role taylor-made for her wonderful sarcasm and straight-man reactions. On the other hand, Poehler is a revelation. Angie is not an incredibly complex character, but Poehler takes the character and runs wild with it, creating someone who is as smart as she is inept, and as confident as she is neurotic.

Everything in this movie is supposed to feel bubbly, almost to a fault, but it's compelling to watch these actors have fun with this light material. Steve Martin makes a wonderfully funny cameo as Kate's narcissistic guru boss, but that is the only thing this film has in the way of edge. Malco, Kinnear, Sheppard, and Weaver are all dedicated to their confined roles, and with the guidance of Fey and Poehler, there is nothing dissatisfying in this film, and it gets the audience result that it searches for: a chuckle and a smile.

No comments: