Doodad Kind of Town

Quick Take: "Baby Mama"
April 28, 2008, 12:15 am
Filed under: Tina Fey

It’s probably a bad sign that I didn’t really laugh until a good 30 minutes into “Baby Mama.”

It’s probably an even worse sign that when I did finally laugh, it wasn’t at Tiny Fey or Amy Poehler, but rather at a clip from “America’s Funniest Home Videos” in which a little boy batted a whiffle ball straight into his father’s testicles.

Most depressing of all? That’s probably the hardest I laughed during the entire movie.

It’s not that “Baby Mama” is bad, exactly. It works well enough, albeit rather predictably, as a standard-issue, “chick flick.” But who wanted that? Fey and Poehler are two of the most wickedly and subversively funny females on the planet. Pairing them as an uptight executive with a loudly ticking biological clock and the white trash dingbat who carries said executive’s baby as a surrogate seemed like, um, fertile ground for inspired comedy. (OK, bad pun.)

Instead what “Baby Mama” clearly demonstrates is that neither of these ladies, however talented, has what it takes to be at the center of a movie.

The biggest disappointment, for me, is that Tina Fey didn’t write “Baby Mama.” Fey is brilliant writer, not so great as an actress. She gets off a good line or throaway piece of physical comedy here and there, but she’s mostly playing straight woman to Poehler and a gallery of actors (Sigourney Weaver, Steve Martin, Siobhan Fallon and others) in featured comic roles. The script (by SNL alum Michael McCullers) asks that we sympathize with and cheer for Fey’s character, but Fey is too chilly an actress for us to truly take her to heart.

Poehler is a brilliant sketch comic, but sustaining a role through the length of entire movie seems to sap her energy. Anyone who’s seen her one-legged, defiantly flatulent “Bachelor” contestant on SNL knows how far Poehler can go with a white trash character, but in “Baby Mama” she’s rarely allowed to pull the stops out. Rather, her character has to learn something and grow and be a better person, and that learning curve tends to extinguish her usual manic spark. She isn’t convincing (partly because she’s a good decade too old for the part), and she isn’t nearly as funny as the trailer would lead you to believe.

And though reviewers are all abuzz over Steve Martin’s performance – as Fey’s boss, the ponytailed, tragically hip CEO of a organic grocery chain – he didn’t do it for me either. The character sounded hilarious on paper, but in actual performance, it barely made me smile.


7 Comments so far
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I had considered spending $$$ on this one, but about two days prior to its release, I realized Fey didn’t write it, so I said never mind. After reading all the bad reviews, I’m glad I did.

Comment by Mrs. Thuro

Mrs. T – I think you made the right decision. Wait for the DVD.

Comment by Pat

Keen insights on a film that probably doesn’t deserve them. This could have – should have – been comedy gold, but you could tell it didn’t have much going for it by the way the TV spots kept pushing the “peeing in a sink” gag. I wonder what this would have looked like if Judd Apatow had gotten a hold of it?

Comment by Evan Derrick

Evan – Hmmm, Judd Apatow ‘s “Baby Mama” -that’s an interseting proposition. I kind of wonder what that would have been like myself. Mostly, though, I just wonder how great it could have been if Tina Fey had written it.But your comment reminds me again how much more I enjoyed “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.”

Comment by Pat

I’m right there with you… not a great movie. I wouldn’t put the blame at Fey’s or Poehler’s feet though… the material (script) just wasn’t that good.I did really like Steve Martin’s and Sigourney Weaver’s characters.

Comment by Nayana Anthony

Wow, by not paying attention to this I just assumed Tina Fey wrote this, and I didn’t even know Steve Martin was in it. Doesn’t sound like it’s really worth my time, as even those who like it just say that it was “good.”

Comment by Daniel G.

Nayana – I agree, it’s an average script, but also one that doesn’t really play to either Fey’s or Poehler’s strengths. I think they’d both be better used in small, featured roles.Daniel- I was pretty surprised that Steve Martin didn’t show up in the trailer or any of the TV spots.

Comment by Pat

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