Baby Mama movie poster
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Baby Mama movie poster

Baby Mama Movie Review

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From the writer of Austin Powers comes the latest Tina Fey comedy Baby Mama, a decisive Tina Fey-like movie that works moderately well but comes nowhere near Mean Girls status. Amy Poehler, Greg Kinnear and Steve Martin also star.

Baby Mama is about Kate (Fey), a successful executive who has neglected marriage and children in favor of her career. Told she is unable to have children, she finally decides to hire someone to do a surrogate birth - and chooses the unlikely candidate, a working class woman named Angie (Poehler) who... lacks common etiquette, like no peeing in the bathroom sink. After Angie leaves her sleazy husband (Dax Shepard), the two women find themselves even unlikelier roommates.

Going to the film, I had heard mixed reviews, ranging from "hilarious" to "downright stupid." Needless to say, I didn't know what to expect. Ultimately, Baby Mama isn't hilarious, but it isn't downright stupid, either. It falls nicely in between, and will make an enjoyable rental. Fey makes a good leading woman, bringing the typical wit we've expected of the SNL alumna. She isn't explosively funny, but is a good counteragent to Poehler, who pulls off the white trash chick quite well without taking it entirely over the top.

Unfortunately, Baby Mama's unwillingness to go over the top also hurts the film. I can't believe I'm saying this, but Baby Mama actually remains too modest at times. Poehler's character is not nearly as crazy and trashy as I was expecting, and it's a bit disappointing. Aside from the sink-peeing scene, which is shown in the previews, she really doesn't do anything too extreme. And, ultimately, that's how the end product is: nothing too crazy, nothing too extreme, and nothing all too exciting.

A perfect example is Steve Martin, who gets to do the zaniest character of the bunch (a Whole Foods-esque executive). He's funny in the movie, but not nearly as funny as he could have been with a few tweaks. At least he gets to have a ponytail.

Baby Mama is funny, but not too funny, clever, but not too clever, and entertaining, but not too entertaining.

Review by Robert Bell (B+)

Instead of the dick and fart jokes audiences have become accustomed to in an Apatow and Ferrell dominated comedy world, Baby Mama offers up some vagina and menstruation jokes; which for the most part are delivered quite well. Constant hilarity ensues when the two affable leads are on screen together, but the film lags with formulaic garble when they are forced to deal with their other less comically inclined co-stars.

Choosing career over family, Kate Holbrook (Tina Fey) finds herself single at the age of 37 and wanting a baby. Unable to naturally carry a fetus of her own, she turns to a surrogate mother agency run by the insincere and surprisingly fertile Chaffee Bicknell (Sigourney Weaver in another strong comedic role).

She is matched with the white-trash, karaoke singing Angie (Amy Poehler), who after impregnation, breaks up with her retarded boyfriend Carl (Dax Shepard) and moves in with Type-A personality Kate where comedy antics ensue.

While the actual script isn't particularly strong, featuring some weak jokes and uninspired character arcs, the performances make Mama worthwhile. Tina Fey has mastered the straight-man role, radiating condescension and delivering consistently amusing reaction shots. There are very few actresses who could use the word "taint" in such an inspired manner. Also, Amy Poehler embraces her ignorant stereotype with gusto, keeping her over-the-top character surprisingly grounded, which only makes the sincere delivery of such bizarre dialogue that much more amusing. When the two are acting off of each other, the film shines, offering often relentless humor.

Perhaps this natural chemistry between the leads is what makes the other exchanges throughout the film so unwelcome. Sequences involving Steve Martin and Dax Shepard are almost always void of energy, and Fey's relationship with Greg Kinnear feels somewhat forced.
It is easy to overlook the shortcomings of Baby Mama, as on the whole it delivers what it advertises. Some fresh female humor about stirrups and the anxieties surrounding the demands of juggling family with career are welcome in a male dominated comedy world.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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