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.

Light at the End of the Tunnel ! Things I’m Looking Forward To
March 26, 2008, 12:33 am
Filed under: George Clooney, Mathieu Amalric, Musicals, Sex and the City, Tina Fey

As I’ve mentioned several times recently, my job and the rest of my life have been kind of kicking my butt lately. I haven’t had much time to see movies or much to blog about.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel. With Lent and Easter now over, my church choir commitments have lessened, and the work project I’ve been killing myself over is winding down.

At last, I can get back to the movies!!! And here are some of the things I’m looking forward to:

1. “Invitation to the Dance” Movie Blogathon

Marilyn over at Ferdy on Films is hosting a Dance Movie Blogathon from May 4 to May 10. Look forward to many fine and entertaining posts from fellow movie bloggers. I’ll be contributing a piece myself.

I want to be a dancer in my next life – ’cause in my current life, dance skills are among the talents I definitively do not possess. (During my years of community theatre performing, I heard one thing consistently from choreographers: “Honey, we’re going to put you in the back row.” I used to tell people I was the poster child for the American Society of the Dance Impaired.) Not surprisingly, I have great admiration for those who can do magnificently what I cannot. So I’m looking forward to everyone’s remembrances of great moments in the movies’ dance history.

2. “Leatherheads”

It’s a George Clooney movie. What other reason does a girl need? Opens April 4.

3. “Baby Mama”

If there was a Funniest Woman on the Planet award, Tina Fey would win hands down – and Amy Poehler would be one of the closest runners-up. Unfortunately, Fey didn’t write this one, but that won’t stop me from being there on opening weekend. (April 24)

4. “Heartbeat Detector”

A dark, corporate thriller that Salon critic Andrew O’Hehir calls ” ‘Michael Clayton’ on Nazi-grade Acid.” It stars Mathieu Amalric (of “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”) and it sounds fantastic. Unfortunately, it may be a long wait; the soonest I could find a screeing of “Heartbeat Detector” is at the Chicago International Film Festival – in October.

(BTW – If you aren’t reading O’Hehir’s “Beyond the Multiplex” blog, you should start now.)

5. “Sex and the City: The Movie”

I have a confession to make: I LOVED “Sex and the City.” I even still watch the crappy, hacked-to-pieces reruns on TBS. I’ll concede that some of the criticisms of “SATC” are justified. Over its five-year run, it did devolve from sharp-edged, envelope-pushing social satire into a glossy compendium of Madison Avenue product placements. (I don’t think the name ‘Manolo Blahnik’ was dropped once in the show’s first season.) And Sarah Jessica Parker’s portrayal of Carrie Bradshaw ran off the rails towards the end, with her early edginess giving way to a dumbed-down shtick of incessant squeals, giggles, and bad puns.

But despite the characters’ too-frequent trips to Barney’s and Carrie’s overused “today, I had a thought…” voiceovers, there was some damn fine writing and acting in that series, and the four leads created full-bodied and indelible characters that I’m looking forward to spending time with again. “Sex and the City” made me laugh and cry – and, yes, also influenced my shoe-buying habits. And I’ll be in the audience on the movie’s opening weekend.