Screenwriters: Michael McCullers
Starring: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Greg Kinnear, Sigourney Weaver, Steve Martin
Running time: 99 mins
Seeking to blend emotional poignancy, comedy and romance together, Baby Mama is stillborn on all three counts. Effervescent performances from the female leads are stunted by a dismal script so overwhelmingly contrived that it induces a nausea that closely replicates the morning sickness experienced by the film's expectant mother.
30 Rock star Tina Fey undoubtedly deserves a better vehicle for talents, playing brooding businesswoman Kate - who has a one in a million chance of becoming pregnant due to a dodgy uterus. Kate signs up for a surrogacy scheme run by the sinister Chaffee (Weaver) and is delighted to be hooked up with dim 'white trash' Angie, who agrees to lend her womb to the cause. However, Angie (Poehler) is involved in a particularly nasty scam and Kate's affections quickly turn to juice bar owner Rob (Kinnear), with the prospect of a tedious romance looming large.
The vague premise of Baby Mama - a lonely woman wanting a child - simply deserves far better treatment. Attempts to generate realism and serious dramatic impact midway through the film, when Angie's dark secret is revealed, fall totally flat. This is mainly because of the forced attempts at zany humour that have preceded the twist, where the characters and situations are largely unbelievable due to their contrived nature - epitomised by the dismal ending.
The sheer amount of over-the-top caricatures on display serves to detract from the film's desperation to make us care at critical moments for the fates of Kate and Angie. The latter's manipulative boyfriend appears to have walked in from some redneck spoof movie called ‘Cotton Eye Joe’, while Steve Martin's turn as sleazy spiritual guru Barry is truly surreal.
Still, Martin's performance, while not benefiting the movie as a whole, does make for compulsive viewing. In many respects it's more bemusing than amusing and treads a very fine line between ingenuity and car crash. Yet your mind is stopped from wandering to hear the faded comedy legend unleash lines such as: "I want to reward you with five minutes of uninterrupted eye contact."
In the tonally similar (but infinitely better) Knocked Up, the central protagonists felt like living, breathing human beings that we could relate to. In Baby Mama they are mere plot functions for the most part, wasting the undoubted spark between Fey and Poehler. In a very rare hilarious sequence, the reserved Kate is taken out clubbing by her new flatmate Angie and vamps it up after being plied with alcohol. It's a shame that other sequences lacked inspiration and showcase Fey's versatility.
If Baby Mama's script had searched more for honesty and truth instead of lame jokes and incredulous plot twists, it may have worked. Ultimately, it's hard to share the smiles and tears of characters who inhabit a very unreal world that is far detached from our own.