Did you guys know Baby Mama comes out today? I don't know how you could know, since we've only been yammering about it for the past four months. Anyway, the reviews are in, and they are a mixed bag. For those late to the party, Baby Mama tells the story of Kate (Tina Fey), a woman in her late 30s who is desperate for a child. When she finds out that she can't have one, she hires trashy Angie (Amy Poehler) to be her surrogate, and Angie ends up moving in with Kate. Then Odd-Couple style wackiness ensues. Whether or not reviewers liked the movie, L.A. Times film critic Carina Chocano makes an excellent point about Fey: "Fey has spent several years proving that she's very good at what she does, and she may spend the next few years having to prove that she deserves any success that comes her way. But hey, this is America — where the fact that a woman is running for president is still talked about with a kind of gee-whiz-look-how-far-we've-come disingenuousness, despite the many countries that have already seen one or more women presidents. If a Fey backlash happens, I hope Hillary buys her a drink." A reviewer round-up of Baby Mama after the jump.
When the onscreen birthing scene in question involves certified Very Funny Lady and relatively new mother Tina Fey, you can expect honesty — and hilarity. Case in point: Baby Mama's climactic childbirth scene finds Fey running down the hospital corridor alongside a gurney-bound, flailing Amy Poehler. 'This is like shitting a knife!'
Fey's Kate, for all her trendy compulsiveness, is surprisingly likable, never succumbing to the tired stereotype of the sterile yuppie who has sacrificed her sexuality and her soul for success. Poehler's role gets the bigger laughs: she's a gifted rubber-faced comedienne, particularly winning when, caught red-handed in one gaucherie after another—like sticking her gum under the coffee table—she outright denies what she's done.
Baby Mama...is blithely unconcerned with gender-baiting. In fact, the movie hardly allows itself any sharp moments at all — it's much too sweet-natured to be cruel, and much too cheerful to be angry. It probably could have pushed a few more buttons, but 'Baby Mama' aims to please and succeeds.
This movie, which reunites the "Saturday Night Live" news anchors Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, turns surrogate motherhood into an "Odd Couple" sitcom with conflicts of class that resolve into sisterhood. It's clumsy, not cute, an amateur show that's eager to amuse by any means — a stroller with airbags, a birthing counselor with an Elmer Fudd accent ("As your pwegnancy pwogwesses..."). Yet the show is redeemed by its co-stars, up to a pwoint.
Baby Mama is a politely bland retread of women's-movie clichés a generation old: the driven businesswoman who puts off motherhood till the last minute, then pursues it with type-A zeal; the guy who flees a first date when babies are mentioned; the down-to-earth potential boyfriend (Greg Kinnear) who, by his very existence, reminds the overly ambitious heroine of what really matters in life. Look, I have fond enough memories of Diane Keaton and Sam Shepard in Baby Boom, but that was more than 20 years ago. Have our ideas about working, parenting, and the formation of alternative families really changed so little since 1987?
The film never comes fully to term, as it were: the visual style is sitcom functional, and even the zippiest jokes fall flat because of poor timing. But, much like the prickly, talented Ms. Fey, it pulls you in with a provocative and, at least in current American movies, unusual mix of female intelligence, awkwardness and chilled-to-the-bone mean.
It's possible that Fey, like other television stars, is unused to being framed in full length, and, though in complete command of her delivery—dry, spiky, but unthreatening—she hasn't yet made up her mind how funny her body is meant to be. She isn't big enough to make a joke of her ripeness, like Bette Midler, but she's no Lily Tomlin, either. She could do worse than steal a trick from Lucille Ball—a lovely, elegant figure who taught herself to be graceless.
Uterine Chagrin [Premiere]
Baby Formula [Newsweek]
'Baby Mama' Is In Fertile Territory[Los Angeles Times]
Fey and Poehler Deliver Erratic 'Baby Mama' [WSJ]
Womb Service [Slate]
Baby Mama (2008) [NYT]
Switching Places [New Yorker]