by: Michael McCullers
Starring: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Sigourney Weaver, Greg Kinnear, Steve Martin
Released by: Universal
Short: Despite the always-reliable Tina Fey and a few great laughs, "Baby Mama" never quite makes it out of the comedic kiddy pool.
In Need of a Midwife
This lackluster comedy doesn't deliver
There seems to be an inordinate amount of pressure on the early summer comedy "Baby Mama" to prove whether or not Tina Fey has a future as a bankable movie star. Already golden as a writer, Fey shepherded NBC's late night warhorse "Saturday Night Live" into the new millennium with a much-needed boost in quality, and wrote the hit film, "Mean Girls." But it wasn't until she left "SNL" to create, write, and star in the NBC sitcom "30 Rock" that Fey really hit her stride. Now the industry waits to see whether this bespectacled woman has what it takes to join the ranks of Will Ferrell, Mike Myers, and other "SNL" alumni who translated their loyal fan-bases into profitable ticket sales. Unfortunately, the lukewarm "Baby Mama" puts Fey at a distinct disadvantage.
Written and directed by former "SNL" scribe Michael McCullers, "Baby Mama" reunites former "SNL: Weekend Update" co-anchors Fey and Amy Poehler in a story about child-craving, career-driven Kate Holbrook, who hires uncultured, uncouth Angie Ostrowiski to be a surrogate mother after her tactless doctor gives Kate a one in a million chance of conceiving. Circumstances lead Angie to move in with Kate and the inevitable odd-couple hijinks ensue, followed by a few more serious plot twists that are either dramatically underplayed or unrealistically written away to allow for a tidy and undeservedly happy ending.
Hopefully "Baby Mama" won't put a stop to Fey's career as a cinematic leading lady, since her only real mistake here was signing on without giving the script her own polish. Fey nails the few real zingers that come her way, and demonstrates promise during the film's squandered emotional moments. Of the two leads, Poehler actually delivers more laugh-out-loud highpoints, but her predominant experience as a sketch comedian quickly becomes apparent, as her portrayal lacks emotional depth and a definable accent. Though they're confined to lesser roles, it's the film's old pros that manage to make the most out of what they're given. Steve Martin shows up as Kate's flaky, new-age boss, bringing a few moments of inspired, near-absurdist humor with him, while Sigourney Weaver effortlessly deadpans through her role as a surrogacy agency head, reminding everyone what a gifted comedic actress she actually is.
"Baby Mama" never quite bores, but it isn't consistently entertaining enough to warrant the price of a ticket. Fey and Poehler's numerous fans will undoubtedly want to check it out when it gets a home release in a few months, but a more general audience may want to first invest their money in a copy of "30 Rock" on DVD to see much of the same humor done better. Without forcing too obvious a groan, "Baby Mama" never quite delivers.
Review by Matt Kane
||(Updated 04/24/08 ES)