- The Washington Times - Friday, April 25, 2008

“Baby Mama,” from first-time helmer and Austin Powers franchise scribe Michael McCullers, is the latest arrival in the growing genre of pregnancy comedies. Unfortunately, it has a couple of things working against it — namely, Judd Apatow’s “Knocked Up” and director Jason Reitman’s “Juno,” both of which set the bar unreasonably high last year.

By delving into the as-yet-unexplored topic of surrogacy, “Baby Mama” delivers some original laughs, but overall, the film has a few more flaws and a little less moxie than 2007’s cinematic bundles of joy. Its observations aren’t as razor-sharp; its characters aren’t as consistent and authentic-feeling; and its plot is a tad too neat.

That said, this “Baby” has a lot of great attributes. For one, it stars Tina Fey. Taking a break from her day job as the star of NBC’s “30 Rock,” the producer-writer-actress comfortably steps into the role of Kate Holbrook, a 37-year-old single white woman who has worked her way up to vice president of Round Earth Organic Market.

Kate was always too busy getting promotions to want a baby. Now, all of a sudden, she’s met by smiling infants at every turn and even smells their hair when their moms aren’t looking. (The gags here are obvious, and yet they work, gently poking fun at the overwhelming urges of motherhood and their often-rapid onset.)

Told she has little chance of conceiving on her own, Kate takes a chance on Chaffee Bicknell, a high-end surrogacy center named after its miraculously fertile founder (a fun turn by Sigourney Weaver).

For reasons not fully explained, Kate woos the first potential surrogate mother she meets, the trash-talking, trash-eating, somewhat trashy-dressing Angie Ostrowiski (Amy Poehler).

When Angie’s deadbeat beau (played by Dax Shepard) wrongs her one too many times, she ends up on Kate’s doorstep. Kate takes her in and, despite the “Odd Couple” antics that ensue, never kicks Angie to the curb.

In between the class clashes occurring in her home, Kate is trying to locate and design the next Round Earth flagship store in a hot, up-and-coming neighborhood.

Her supremely New Agey boss, Barry (the fabulously cast Steve Martin) is difficult to please, and so is Rob (Greg Kinnear), a local juice bar owner who’s wary of the new organic outpost. Somehow, though, Kate charms both of them — particularly the latter, whom she starts to date.

The eventual plot twists are visible from the movie’s outset.

The subtle Miss Fey and goofy Miss Poehler put in strong performances — a fact that can be attributed at least partially to the fact that Mr. McCullers has worked previously with both women at “Saturday Night Live” and clearly has a good sense of their capabilities. Accordingly, he imbues the film with a nice female sensibility.

Unfortunately, the two main characters don’t always ring true. Kate seems a little overeager and not methodical enough about her decision-making given her education and stature, and Angie veers too quickly from airheaded and foul-mouthed to thoughtful and proper.

The best roles (not to mention the funniest scenes and lines, in many cases) go the veteran actors, Mr. Martin and Miss Weaver, who are delightful caricatures of those who peddle the “haves’ ” lifestyle. It’s worth seeing the film just for this duo.

Go into this “Baby Mama” drama expecting the next “Juno,” and you’ll be disappointed. But go in anticipating some meaty punch lines, some zany performances and some material that hits particularly close to home for women in their 30s and older, and the stork will deliver.


TITLE: “Baby Mama”

RATING: PG-13 (for crude and sexual humor, language and a drug reference)

CREDITS: Written and directed by Michael McCullers.

RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes

WEB SITE: www.babymamamovie.net


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