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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Baby Mama

My perfect husband won’t let me visit PetSmart™ unaccompanied to buy our cats’ food for fear I’ll bring home another stray from the several that are always housed there, on display from the local animal shelter. I can’t help it. I’ve got a maternal instinct that’s as hard to shake as a crack habit. I live to mother, and now that my own spawn has sprung and found a place of his own ~ in Paris no less ~ it makes drop by visits and pampering home-cooked meals impossible. Not that these would be ‘home cooked’ by me, mind you, but I consider those cooked by someone at a trendy restaurant and delivered to our home as counting in my book, so kill me. I miss my son, I’ll admit it, and the fact that he is gay, 30-something, and has no interest in adopting or creating any of his own children with an interested female partner makes the hope of grandchildren a mere pinprick on a very gloomy horizon nearly 3,445.503 miles away (not that I’m counting). Sometimes I think this whole ‘gay thing’ is just his excuse to drive me crazy because he knows I want him to give me grandchildren, and he still wants to torment me for not sending him to that “Broadway Show Tunes & Tap” summer camp when he was 13. Okay, I know that’s not true, but I’m worked into a maternal frenzy now.

Last year my perfect husband finally admitted that even he was feeling a tad blue now that our 6’ 1”, 200 lbs. baby boy had found love with a French doctor and moved with this Gallic child-napper overseas. He even suggested that it wasn’t too late to consider another baby. I think he just said that because he knows I openly cry when I pass the egg case at Hannaford’s, but I’d cry even more if I had to go through the things Tina Fey does to have a baby in the movie Baby Mama.

Tina is the hottest woman in Hollywood these days, coming off nine years as the savviest writer and
“Weekend Update” presenter on “Saturday Night Live” since Dennis Miller, before he became all smarmy and the most self-righteous Republican this side of Rush Limbaugh’s bottle of Vicodin. Now she has her own cutting edge tv show, “30 Rock”, and she can pretty much smile and studio heads fall to their knees and say “Yes, Ma’am, please, may I have another?” Here, she plays über-executive Kate Holbrook, the right-hand to a natural foods guru named Barry (Steve Martin; The Pink Panther), a New Age loony tune, who happens to be a zillionaire food chain owner. With no man in her life, no time on her calendar, and a “hostile womb”, as her doctor tells her, Kate turns to surrogacy matchmaker Chaffee Bicknell (Sigourney Weaver; Vantage Point) to help her find a suitable “hostess uterus” to incubate her own fertilized egg (thanks to a sperm bank).

Enter every white collar worker’s worst nightmare ~ blue collar poster girl for slovenly behavior, Angie Ostrowiski (Amy Poehler; current “Saturday Night Live” go-to-gal). Angie and her dimbulb husband, Carl (Dax Shepard; The Comebacks), look at this surrogacy as a payday in the making, and it’s only when Angie splits with Carl and shows up on Kate’s doorstep with nowhere else to go that Kate realizes just what she’s gotten herself into.

That’s where the laughs are mined for all they are worth, and they do dig deep and hard not to miss a single joke. Whether it is breastfeeding, vaginal moistness, or any other pregnancy-related bit that would make most men blush, the story also balances that grossness with The Odd Couple-style humor of having compulsively tidy and health conscious Kate sharing quarters with perennial slob and junk food connoisseur Angie, so scripter (and first-time director) Michael McCullers (Thunderbirds) can’t be accused of playing too heavily on just the gross-out aspects of his comedy.

The biggest problem with the script comes when McCullers inserts
Greg Kinnear (Feast of Love) into the story as Rob, the hapless owner of a local juice shop in the neighborhood where Kate is in charge of opening the next giant store in her boss’ chain. Not that Kinnear is less than his usual adorable self and as dreamy as ever, but the whole David vs. Goliath set-up of his little indy shop competing against the Big (Juice) Box Store goes nowhere… nowhere at all. It’s as if there is a reel of the movie missing after the scene is set and the battle lines are drawn. Oh well. At least he’s cute.
Look for cameos from “SNL” regulars Fred Armisen and Will Forte, who sort of help keep the sense of this as a “SNL” family venture, especially since the entire film could be perceived as an overblown “SNL” skit. Fortunately, Fey and Poehler are substantial enough actresses to overcome that curse, and even though the tale steers into some fairly predictable and sappy waters towards the end, they keep it buoyed by the strength of their personalities alone.

Baby Mama isn’t going to find anyone reaching for an Academy Award next Spring, but it’s not going to ruin any careers either. It’s funnier than Deception and smarter than Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, its two big competitors that also opened this weekend, so this Baby and its Mama should be in fine shape.

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