Review: ‘The Babymakers’ Has Some Mirth Defects

By  · Published on August 3rd, 2012

You know that comedian at open mic night who provides too many tangential details in his set up and takes forever to get to the simplest of punchlines? This is the movie equivalent.

With its thoroughly modern concept, The Babymakers follows a husband (Paul Schneider) who has to break into a sperm bank in order to get back his last viable batch of swimmers and impregnate his wife (Olivia Munn). It’s a fantastic spin on heist stories, and with Jay Chandrasekhar at the helm, there’s a sense of comedic prowess, but the movie itself gets bogged down in its gag set ups, leaving little room for pay off.

There are some great moments, but the difficulty in making a story revolving around a sperm bank heist is that, as writers Peter Gaulke and Gerry Swallow most likely found out early on, it’s not all that hard to break into a sperm bank. It turns out that security is pretty lax considering the low resale street value of their stored goods. Unfortunately, instead of building up a natural set of situations leading up to the theft, the film wanders about aimlessly, backtracks, returns with a force, recants and then leaves its high concept for its climax.

In fact, the idea of breaking into the sperm bank doesn’t come until after a bloated first act where the problem of impotence is bobbled continuously. Tommy and Audrey are trying hard to conceive, but their relationship is threatened by far too many elements that aren’t dealt with in a balanced way. Tommy is hiding the fact he bought Audrey’s engagement ring with money gained by supplying semen for cash, a former lover (Hayes MacArthur) is flirting openly with Audrey in an attempt to swoop in, and Tommy’s testicles aren’t working at maximum capacity. With a tighter script or execution, that would make for a constant force of comic timing. That’s not the case here. The segments are, instead, built to milk as much of their set up as possible – leaving Tommy exposed as a stunning moron who can’t even masturbate into a cup without breaking a television.

That’s really the best example. Instead of getting on to the next idea, The Babymakers takes minor issues and makes them nearly impossible to overcome, stretching the humor too thin. By the time punchlines come, it’s difficult to remember what was supposed to be funny to begin with. When Tommy can’t handle getting his man juice into a cup at the medical center, it leads to a long, protracted sequence where he has difficulty doing it at home too. When he finally does, the theoretically hilarious task of him reaching the center in under half of a small town hour means another extended set up solely in service of running a simple test. It’s excruciating simply to find out that his sperm is no good.

As a result, moments that probably could have been montages get their own lion’s share of screen time, and the initial problem to be solved languishes.

Both Chandrasekhar (who plays a bizarre Indian mafia killer) and Kevin Heffernan (who plays Tommy’s ballsy best friend) offer some solid ground cover – distractions from whatever the mangled plot is supposed to be up to at any given time. Unfortunately, the uneven segments and laser focus on minutia aren’t given a soft landing because Schneider’s character is written so moronically and Munn is forced into the sneering sarcasm that made her both famous and highly unlikable. There’s no softness to her, and there’s no sweetness to Tommy and Audrey’s relationship to begin with.By the end, this changes a bit through sheer force of will, but their love and their story is ultimately easy to forget.

Without that strong sense of connection to the characters, it’s no fun to watch what should be a two-hour-long task take weeks and weeks.

On the sunny side, the raunchy elements are done well, including the heist itself. There are some sticky laughs that are worth the wait, even if the total experience is a bit of a chore. Overall, it’s aggressively average, a movie that gets in its own way that has a knack for delivering funny situations, but takes too long trying to spit out everything leading to the punchline.

The Upside: Heffernan, Chandrasekhar and Schneider all have good rapport, the raunchy humor works well, and there are some truly hilarious moments.

The Downside: Munn is unlikable, Schneider’s character is idiotic in the worst way, and it has a terrible, awful, no good, very bad structure that kills its own gags.

On the Side: Gaulke and Swallow also wrote Black Knight, Martin Lawrence’s finest work to date.

Movie stuff at VanityFair, Thrillist, IndieWire, Film School Rejects, and The Broken Projector Podcast@brokenprojector | Writing short stories at Adventitious.