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Baby Mama (1/10)

by Tony Medley

Running time: 105 minutes.

“It’s a mess. This is a real mess.” Rob (Greg Kinnear).

Rob is not a film critic. He’s a former attorney providing the love interest for Kate (Tina Fey). But he described this movie dead on. It is one of the most numbingly unfunny films I’ve had the misfortune to endure.

But what was one to expect? It’s basically a “Saturday Night Live” production, starring, as it does, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler (who plays Angie, the surrogate mother), both mainstays of SNL, and produced by Lorne Michaels, the creator and longtime producer of SNL. SNL, by the way, has an Obama-type Teflon reputation. 90% of what it does is infantile, often excrement-derived, low-intellect rubbish. Only 10% can be recognized as funny. But it’s the 10% that’s replayed over and over again, so that one thinks that it’s been 30 years of unremitting excellence. Think again. This film captures what the other 90% has been producing for 30 years.

In addition to an astonishing lack of laughs, the film emphasizes the secular position on the irrelevance of husbands and fathers, since the story glorifies unwed pregnancies. It exalts selfish women like Kate (Fey), a 37-year-old unmarried professional woman who wants a baby without thinking of bringing it up without a father or traditional family environment (remember mothers and fathers?). It’s all about her, forget about the good of the child.

This is so weak that four of the jokes that are shown in the trailer appear in the first five minutes! They weren’t funny in the trailer, but it’s a telling commentary that they do constitute the best parts of this movie. “Baby Mama” confirms that when filmmakers include what they think are the best jokes in the movie in the trailer, there is something terribly wrong with the movie. What is the point of spoiling whatever laughs might be derived from a movie by telegraphing the jokes before you see the movie? Does Jerry Seinfeld come on television and say, “come to see me in concert. Here are the jokes I will tell.”? If you know the jokes, what’s the point of going to the concert or the movie?

The scene of Angie, sitting on the washbasin urinating is in the trailer. I didn’t think it was funny in the trailer. I thought it was disgusting. But that’s the kind of bathroom humor these filmmakers think is funny. That’s the kind of humor SNL has been foisting on its audiences for three decades. To open a film with jokes just about everyone has already seen is not the way to capture an audience.

Another tipoff for a critic is that the screening was overflowing with paid laughers. Unfortunately for me, one of them, an obese woman with a loud laugh, was sitting just behind me. She laughed uproariously at just about every scene.

There are only two good things about this movie, Angie’s common-law husband, Carl (Dax Shepard) and Kate’s doorman, Oscar (Romany Malco). They do provide comic relief from everyone else trying so hard to be funny. To Shepard and Malco, being funny seems to be natural. For the others, it is clearly work. Hard as they work to try to be amusing, they don’t require nearly the effort that I needed to sit through this to the end.

Writer-director Michael McCullers is so inept that he can’t even get a good performance out of Kinnear, who is, for my money, one of the more attractive, appealing actors extant. Not so in this film.

Another clue that this is a loser is the appearance of Steve Martin, in the role of Barry, Kate’s spacey boss, an obvious steal from John O’Hurley’s Mr. Peterman character from “Seinfeld.” Unfortunately, Martin isn’t funny, as was O’Hurley. He’s just silly. This continues Martin’s dismal record in film, but that’s another subject.

April 22, 2008