Few would argue against the fact that Judd Apatow and Tina Fey are the hottest comedic properties in Hollywood today. So with the success of Apatow’s Knocked Up last year, there was little surprise that its premise (or some form of it) would rear its ugly head again. It has with Baby Mama.
While Baby Mama doesn’t necessarily miss the boat as Apatow’s production did (his didn’t focus on the pregnancy at all), it is still a very poorly conceived film. That’s because writer/director Michael McCullers figured Amy Poehler playing a socially retarded character against Tina Fey’s straightlaced role would be all that was required for successful comedy. In many cases, the antagonist/protagonist comedy sketch is enough to make a funny movie, but this movie is just so damn dull and lifeless that it never gets much better than one of those lame Saturday Night Live skits we’ve gotten so used to.
Mostly, it’s because the majority of the characters are about as engaging as watching a debate over whether new Coke is better than old Coke. Tina Fey as Kate Holbrook, the childless, super successful vice-president of whole foods company Round Earth, is the correct call from a casting standpoint. What falters is she isn’t given any room to make the character anything but a lonely, prudish complainer. Her lines are as dry as her uterus (hence the reason she hires Poehler to carry her baby) and worse she says them very blasé, with an almost complete disinterest in what she is doing. Watching her “relationship” with Rob Ackerman (Greg Kinnear) bloom is equally painful to watch. They say love is blind, but is it stupid too? These two have nothing in common and seem put together strictly to make Kate appear to have a pulse.
There is a bright spot and Lord help me for saying this, but Poehler’s performance as Angie Ostrowiski, the off-the-wall, adolescent-minded surrogate, is actually the high mark for actors in Baby Mama. All the red lights have been removed from her path, so she hams it up like nothing I’ve ever seen on celluloid before (although Adam Sandler has had his moments). She has really honed her craft for obnoxious behavior during her seven years on SNL and ten or so movies she’s done in the past year or so, and it has all culminated in her showing here.
Aside from that lone non-blemish, Baby Mama should really be viewed as a public service ad for how not to make a comedy. While most of the jokes come at the expense of Angie acting like a cavewoman (pissing in a sink comes to mind), the others rely on a mixture of basic, humdrum comedy staples and the latest cool lingo and fads – most of which result in very awkward silences (i.e., the audience doesn’t laugh). Hell, when a comedic icon like Steve Martin can’t be made funny (he’s Barry, Kate’s transcendental boss), you know you’ve stepped into some deep shit. In good faith I can only recommend this movie to the legions of fans of Amy Poehler – there is absolutely no other reason for anyone else to want to see this. That is of course unless it is on cable and it is a rainy Sunday afternoon (at which point it is a toss-up to either watch this or pluck your eyebrows).