Baby Mama

By Adam Lippe

Amy Poehler telling the group about her upcoming bodily function

When you read about Tina Fey and Amy Poehler wanting to work together, you should be wary. Because it usually means they’ll find a script that happens to have two female leads, but doesn’t suit their comedic talents at all.

Such is the problem with Baby Mama. Both bring their personalities to the film, but they don’t mesh with the edgeless script and boring, clichéd characters, laid out as complete stereotypes. Fey is the uptight barren businesswoman. Poehler is the white trash baby factory Fey hires as a surrogate.

But Fey and Poehler are too smart for their characters, so there end up being a lot of inconsistencies. Poehler (whose husband, Will Arnett, starred in a goofy surrogate mother comedy just last year, The Brothers Solomon) in particular has a hard time mixing her lowbrow material (peeing in a sink) with the attempts at intelligence (discussions about architecture). The result is that scenes have no comedic momentum, despite individual funny lines, and the pacing is brutal, not helped by the very flat, sitcomy direction by writer Michael McCullers. The film even falls into the comedy plot trap, where the last half wants to give us both story and heart, at the expense of the jokes, which all but disappear by act III. Nowhere is this more evident than in the pointless detour of romancing Fey by Greg Kinnear, who seems limoed in from another movie entirely, probably starring Sandra Bullock.

Steve Martin, as Fey’s boss, a pretentious, ponytailed, spiritual foodie has some good lines, and Fey is as likable as she is on 30 Rock. But in Baby Mama, the camera, like with 30 Rock (where the camera spends oodles of screen time aimed at her cleavage), is awfully distracted by Fey’s body parts, it’s like a paean to her legs. It’s proof that the filmmakers forgot to focus on the important parts, being funny.

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By Adam Lippe

Whenever there’s a genre parody or ode to a specific era of films, such as Black Dynamite’s mocking of Blaxploitation films or Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof, the second half of Grindhouse, the danger is that the film might fall into the trap of either being condescending without any particular insight, or so faithful that it becomes the very flawed thing it is emulating.

Black Dynamite has nothing new to say about Blaxploitation films, it just does a decent job of copying what an inept [...]

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Featured Quote (written by me)

On Cold Fish:

Though the 16 year old me described the 1994 weepie Angie, starring Geena Davis as a Brooklyn mother raising her new baby alone, as “maudlin and melodramatic,” Roger Ebert, during his TV review, referring to the multitude of soap-operaish problems piling up on the titular character, suggested that it was only in Hollywood where Angie would get a happy ending. “If they made this movie in France, Angie would have shot herself.”

Well Cold Fish was made in Japan, where Angie would have shot herself and that would have been the happy ending.