With films like last year’s The Brothers Solomon, Knocked Up and now this week’s Baby Mama, it seems that pregnancy is on the verge of becoming the new hot commodity in comedy. What separates Baby Mama from these other films (other than people actually going to see it, unlike The Brothers Solomon), however, is that it involves actual, fully formed adults. In a world where the mere sight of Will Ferrell naked is supposed to induce fits of laughter, it’s a relief to see the kind of genial maturity that exists within Baby Mama.
This isn’t to say the film is anywhere near perfect. Directed by first-timer Michael McCullers (who also wrote the movie, and who had a hand in writing the Austin Powers films and the unfortunate Thunderbirds (2004)), the film is generally more pleasant than it is funny, and the story is too predictable. But there’s an agreeable nature to the movie created by the performances and the chemistry between Tina Fey (Mean Girls) and Greg Kinnear that makes Baby Mama an enjoyable—if inconsequential—time at the movies.
Fey plays Kate, a 37-year-old businesswoman whose biological clock has suddenly started ticking. However, having a baby isn’t as simple as one might think, since Kate isn’t married and she’s found out she’s infertile, making artificial insemination impossible. In her quest to have a baby, she goes to a surrogacy agency and is assigned white-trash Angie (Amy Poehler, Blades of Glory). After initially hitting it off well, it’s not until Angie leaves her common-law husband (Dax Shepard, Let’s Go To Prison) that she finagles her way into living in Kate’s apartment and creating the odd-couple pairing that the first third of the film is built upon.
Once past this, the film reveals the first of a handful of painfully obvious twists that leads to the film’s painfully obvious storybook ending, but not before it turns into a romantic comedy (with Kinnear as Kate’s love interest) combined with the story of the newly found friendship between Kate and Angie. While the movie’s nothing new, it’s the strength of the performers and their relationships that keeps it working (and it probably helps that both Poehler and Fey worked together for about five seasons on Saturday Night Live). This isn’t to say that there’s any award-winning acting going on, but there is a believability and authenticity to it all that you rarely get in this kind of comedy. Even Steve Martin’s completely pointless and tiresome bohemian health-food magnate isn’t enough to derail the film. Sure, the film is unsurprising and conventional, but it never pretends to be anything else, and that’s almost as important as the fact that it’s also not one of the numerous terrible comedies that have come through theaters of late. Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, language and a drug reference.