Baby Mama

Normally I live in this movie universe with a sense of impenetrable optimism, a disposition that allows me to be easily excited for just about any movie. This usually comes in handy, considering my day-to-day job is being excited about upcoming movies. Still, despite this optimism that I hold for every movie, there are certain films that make me twitch a bit, as I can see them going terribly wrong. Baby Mama is a perfect example. After viewing the most recent trailer I was having some serious doubts. As much as I adore the work of Tina Fey, this one looked like The Brothers Solomon, but with women.

And it is easy to see where I can draw that conclusion. Fey stars as Kate Holbrook, a successful, single businesswoman who has caught baby fever, but soon finds out that she is unable to become pregnant herself. Desperate to have a little one and unable to adopt, she opts for a surrogate. But when her surrogate, the trashy, “working class” Angie, played by Amy Poehler, has a falling out with her Common Law husband (Dax Shepard) she lands on Kate’s doorstep with no where to go. This forces Kate, who is already in full nesting mode, to turn her life upside down to keep her baby mama in check.

Thankfully, despite some potential similarities, Baby Mama ends up more on the Knocked Up side of the spectrum rather than the Brothers Solomon side. Tina Fey is really the driving force behind this, as she delivers her character with impeccable timing, something we’ve seen from her all the way back to her SNL days. The jokes never linger, keeping the film moving along nicely as the audience is left in a haze of laughter.

Also lending quite nicely to the film’s success in hilarity is Amy Poehler, who once again is dynamite with everything she does. She breathes a sense of realism into a character that would otherwise end up being a white trash cliché. She does tow the line though, between being funny and being over the top at times, but ultimately the funny moments outweigh the outlandish ones.

Steve Martin and Tina Fey in Baby MamaSteve Martin also brings the laughs as Kate’s crazy health food mogul boss, complete with a long gray ponytail and some odd one-liners that are not overcooked. Martin’s defining moment in the film centers on his character giving Kate five minutes of uninterrupted eye contact as a reward for a job well done. Yes, he is wacky – and it is a testament to writer/director Michael McCuller’s sense of restraint that he works so well as a character, as he could have easily been taken too far.

And while the laugh out loud moments are what make Baby Mama most enjoyable, there is also a rather palpable, relatively cute love story that plays out between Kate and Rob, played by Greg Kinnear. It must be noted that I’ve always been a big fan of Kinnear in roles like this, as he plays the unassuming nice guy love interest well. Not to typecast him, but sometimes you have to go with what works.

In the end I would say that Baby Mama falls somewhere in a separate category from the recent pregnancy comedies like Knocked Up and Brother Solomon. Thankfully, it is nothing like Brothers Solomon, other than the fact that it shares the surrogacy storyline. And while it delivers laughs at key moments similar to Knocked Up, it is far less raunchy, which might lead some to say that it is less funny. But that isn’t the case – Baby Mama just isn’t skewed for that kind of audience. This is a movie geared toward the date movie crowd, and to that effect, it plays quite well. We’ve seen a lot of smart comedies this year, but Baby Mama is probably one of the best comedies of 2008 so far, in that is not only funny, but also relatively clean. That leads me to believe that it could do very well with just about any audience. And that’s not an easy thing to accomplish in this day and age.

Grade: A-


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