Not much of a story, but Fey and Co. keep surrogacy funny
Kate Holbrook (Tina Fey) is seemingly on top of the world. A successful short-skirt exec at a health-food empire, Kate can do no wrong in the eyes of her CEO (an unbilled Steve Martin). Funny. Attractive. Great legs. You get a chance to appreciate the legs because almost every shot makes sure to spotlight the gams. One appreciative character even notes that Kate has “sweet-assed legs.” And her sweet-assed legs carry her about an upscale Philly brownstone decked out with accruements you see only in catalogs and swank magazines.
But her apartment is empty, a stainless-steel womb as barren as her own. Single, and at the past-prime age of 37, Kate needs a baby—and the babies of others taunt her mercilessly every step of the way. It’s never clear exactly why she wants a baby, but I suppose it’s just a matter of faith that all women absolutely need to have a baby to be complete. At least that’s what the internal logic of the movie relies on. So …
After aborted attempts to manufacture or adopt a child of her own, Kate finally turns to a surrogate-mother enterprise run by the imperious Chaffee Bicknell (a creepily serene Sigourney Weaver), where for $100,000 she rents a proletarian womb carried by deer-in-the-headlights Angie (Amy Poehler). Of course, one thing leads to another, and the two end up playing a Knocked Up take on The Odd Couple. With Oscar being a white-trash ditz.
As a script, Baby Mama is a mess. There’s no rhyme or reason to how things play out, and the shaky internal logic isn’t really abided by. It’s just a cartoon. In a way, it’s an inversion of Knocked Up. But unlike Knocked Up, it’s funny. One of those comedies you laugh frequently during but as you leave the theater can’t recall anything in particular you laughed at.
Although it’s not written by Fey, one senses her aftermarket touch on some, if not most, of the gags. And without Fey playing the straight card to former Saturday Night Live castmate Poehler, this entry would have been intolerable. But the two make for a great comedy duo.
As a comedy, Baby Mama plays it safer than I would have liked, and as a narrative it’s utterly predictable every step of the way. The introduction of Greg Kinnear (as usual, playing Greg Kinnear) serves only as the set-up for the expected punchline. But as a laugh-inducing delivery system, the movie is more reliable than one would expect.