Monday, April 28, 2008

Baby Mama

"I can't stand her! It's like living with a child!"

We've been trying to remember when was the last American produced "chick/buddy" movie. Not like the one's we saw previews for here, like "Sex in the City" or the "Travelling Pants" girls--for some reason, the recent women films have had gangs of four, like "Sex" and "Pants" and the Tyler Perry films, or "Waiting to Exhale," as if four keeps you from getting too in-depth, you can gloss over the whole cast and maybe concentrate on one. But I think you have to go all the way back to Shelley Long's movie career to find a movie about two women, and have it be a comedy. Either that or its a foursome, or Kate Hudson and a guy, or its "Thelma and Louise" or a party like "Steel Magnolias" or the upcoming "The Women."

That aside, for once Lorne Michaels isn't exploiting a thin sketch concept from "Saturday Night Live" and merely exploiting the talents of two of his most effective players of late--the ubiquitous Tina Fey (her breakout success of "30 Rock" has put her in the fore-front of the culture and there's rumblings of a backlash...already? Jeez, at least give her time to get over her surprise and enjoy it!) and Amy Poehler, who is among the bravest of female comediennes to come down the pike. Ferociously dedicated to get a laugh, Poehler rivals Lucille Ball in her ability to risk dignity. She has a lot of those moments here but the highlight is a wheel-chair trip down a long corridor screaming from labor pains at the top of her longs and trying to hijack any IV drip along the way that might give her relief. That writer-director (and Saturday Night Live alum) Mike McCullers choses that moment to do it all in one shot watching her disappear down the hall, rather than in television sized snippets of close-ups is one of the few instances where he doesn't try to hammer the joke home by making it obvious. As a director he doesn't have much respect for his audience.

As a writer he fares better, finding the humor in a fairly basic concept (Successful career woman Kate Holbrook--Fey--wants a baby but feels that marriage is a "high-risk proposition," so must hire a surrogate carrier, the trashy Angie Ostriwiski--Poehler) moving the two women in together, "Odd Couple"-style, to experience the joys of pregnancy and the irritation of each other. Poehler's the one doing the physical comedy, while Fey plays the neurotically-together sensible one, basically her Liz Lemon character on "30 Rock," right down to the way she is casually insulted every step of the way, and continually accepts it. Rounding out the cast are such folks as Sigourney Weaver--Mary Tyler Moore-scary as surrogate-entrpreneur Chaffee Bignell--Greg Kinnear as a very convenient boy-friend for Fey, a short appearance by John Hodgman as a fertility specialist, Maura Tierney as Kate's sister, and Steve Martin as her cluelessly zen boss, a developer of whole foods markets. There's a lot of nice skewering of careful dietary habits, and of how rapacious the industry is. Towards the end, the movie starts going serious and ends with a too pat and altogether predictable ending, but it's a comedy, not Pinter.

I've been resisting the urge to toss out good lines from the movie, but I'll leave it at two: "Why's my avatar dressed like a whore?"

and this exchange:

"When's the best time to tell someone you've been lying to them?" "Yesterday."

"Baby Mama," is a Rental.

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