So many potential Gene Shalit-style zingers, so little shame. Do I simply declare Baby Mama to be infertile? Is it too lame to suggest that McCullers, a former SNL writer making his first feature, ought to have considered hiring a surrogate director? “I cannot conceive,” a lesser critic might note, “of how a comic mind as agile as Tina Fey’s could fail to recognize such a dismally unfunny and laboriously predictable screenplay.” However low I sink, really, it’ll only serve to prepare you for this film’s utter lack of imagination.
Step 1: Create a simplistic dichotomy for your two protagonists, with aspiring single mother Kate (Fey) a wealthy, uptight business exec and handy spare uterus Angie (Poehler) a gum-snapping, barefoot white-trash nightmare. Step 2: Introduce a benign love interest (Kinnear) with whom Kate can briefly and pointlessly break up just as preposterous complications arise in the main plot, allowing for a montage of melancholy in which the characters mope around individually to some saccharine ballad. Step 3: Sprinkle scenes with various single-trait goofballs—Steve Martin as Kate’s gooey New Age boss, Sigourney Weaver as a smugly pregnant 50-something, Romany Malco as the sarcastic doorman who cares—in the hope that they’ll distract us from the stale scenario.
Without 30 Rock as a point of comparison, perhaps Baby Mama’s rote shenanigans would seem less disappointing. But after two years of watching Fey turn emotional klutziness into an art form, on a show that averages one gut-busting non sequitur every 15 to 20 seconds, it’s tough to endure nearly two hours of lukewarm pregnancy gags and feeble class conflict, as presented by a floundering neophyte with no sense of where to put the camera or how to pace a scene. The movie isn’t totally laugh-free—Malco, who seems to have improvised much of his dialogue, scores a few times, and Fey has mortifying nerdcore fun with a bit in which Kate reluctantly goes clubbing (Angie: “Stop framing your face”)—but given the talent involved, we had the right to expect much more. All together, 30 Rock fans: Blerg.
Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Greg Kinnear
Directed by Michael McCullers