Baby Mama” gives mainstream comedy a good kick
There’s a scene about two thirds of the way into “Baby Mama” where Amy Poehler, as the supposedly surrogate mother for an infertile businesswoman named Kate (Tina Fey) opens a door to find Kate’s boyfriend Rob (Greg Kinnear). On paper, the scene no doubt reads as inconsequential, as it truly is to the rest of the plot. But Poehler infuses her lines with a vibrant kookiness and makes the most of every nuance. In short, she’s the engine that propels this light comedy to a surprising level that far exceeds the predictability suggested by the trailer.
Kate is a successful career woman who desperately wants a baby, and Poehler’s Angie is the white trash surrogate Kate hires. Fey and Poehler’s chemistry is understandable as both got their start on Saturday Night Live. Writer-Director Michael McCullars, another SNL alum, builds on that chemistry and ultimately delivers more genuine and fresh laughs in this 90-minute film than the last several years of that sketch comedy show combined.
The film works because it stays close to its “Odd Couple”-inspired roots. Fey is spot on and likeable as the mousy, retentive parent-to-be who wants only the best for her baby. Poehler somehow manages to pull off being irresponsible, uncivilized, and the worst possible surrogate mother while maintaining her charm. And she’s a tiny, walking giggle fest.
Supporting characters often make or break this type of comedy, and the aforementioned Kinnear, as well as Sigourney Weaver as the fertility magnate with a bouncy hairdo, Dax Shephard as Angie’s lowlife boyfriend, Romany Malco as the streetwise doorman, and especially Steve Martin as Kate’s ponytailed new-age boss complete an ensemble with no weak links.
Part romantic comedy, part girl/buddy flick, “Baby Mama” gets props for shooting for something with more substance than the average Will Ferrell silliness. But it remains daringly mainstream while avoiding the shameless misogyny that has been the foundation for many recent R-rated comedies. Here’s hoping Fey and Poehler work together again on the big screen.
Rated PG-13 for profanity and sexual situations.