Saturday, May 3, 2008

Throwing the Baby out with the Bath Water

Baby Mama is a perfectly fine film as far as comedies go. It won't change the world, nor is it the
worst comedy I've seen all year, the film is likable and elicits a periodic titter. The problem lies mainly in the fact that her work on Mean Girls and 30 Rock have raised the level of expectation on any project on which her name is attached. Shouldn't we EXPECT more from Tina Fey than an inoffensive sitcom-esque comedy that is inferior to the one she's currently on? The film is not without it's charms but it continually choses the path most traveled rather than offer up something new to the fairly well-worn romantic comedy genre.
The story revolves around Kate Holbrook (Fey) who's maternal clock starts ticking with a boom as she's moving up the corporate ladder at her health food supermarket chain. Unfortunately she's in possession of good eggs but a t-shaped uterus, thus drastically reducing the likelihood of her getting pregnant. Running out of options Kate approaches Chaffee Bicknell (an enduring many jokes about her age Sigourney Weaver) a sort of liaison who matches up eggs and wombs for a hefty fee. The womb in this case is dopey, low-class but good natured Angie (Amy Poehler). Kate's fastidious, organized life naturally clashes with the slob-ish Angie and hilarity ensues. For the most part. The filmmakers try to throw a few curves into the storyline but these twists unfortunately only serve to make the film more conventional and mainstream then it may have originally intended. Be warned, spoilers for a mediocre comedy follow.

The film goes to great lengths to show Kate as a confident, progressive woman who yearns for a child. She's not going out of her way to find romance, she wants the kid. However, the film tacks on a romance with a wasted (though affable as always) Greg Kinnear as a local juice merchant with a vendetta against Jamba Juice (he's also a former he can be involved in the final court scene-whatever). Tina Fey has the distinction of being the type of personality who can stand n her own, she doesn't exude the kind of neediness that would require her having a romantic partner. After the film goes to great lengths to show her ability and desire to raise a child on her own and the beauty of having an atypical, non-conservative family unit the film swerves not once, but TWICE to ensure that this does not happen. What cannot be denied though and what studios would do well to try to take from this film is the considerable comic chemistry of Poehler and Fey.
Admittedly a lot of their material has a sort of pre-heated Odd Couple vibe about it, but their years of working together on SNL have provided a solid foundation for the two actresses to establish a genuine buddy comedy relationship. I believe that the best comedic pairings have a, if not out right romantic, but affectionate undercurrent between them. There are hundreds of examples of this; Zero Mostel "seducing" Gene Wilder in The Producers, Jack Black nudging John Cusack in High Fidelity, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost watching movies together in Hot Fuzz and Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd at dinner in Knocked Up are just a few. Add another pair to the list. There are a series of moments, especially during her initial interview as the two characters are feeling each other out that the giddiness of these two actresses really comes across. The ladies are not only as the film is filled to the rafters with comic ringers including Romany Malco, Steve Martin, John Hodgeman, Maura Tierney and more. Still these characters are thin at best and can't do much to detract from the otherwise been there, done that feel of the comedy.

Oh and I saw Iron Man. It was...(sigh)...glorious. But last year I felt similarly about a fairly bloated mess of a movie about a "Spider-Man." I wasn't seeing the forest for the terrible lead-acting trees. Even through ruby quartz colored glasses though I can see that Iron Man is vastly, VASTLY superior film to Spider-Man 3. I just want to give myself a few days to digest.

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