Baby Mama

(2008) ** 1/2 Pg-13
96 min. Universal Pictures. Director: Michael McCullers. Cast: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Sigourney Weaver, Dax Shepard, Greg Kinnear.

Read the fine print before signing up for Baby Mama: though it stars Tina Fey, best known for her writing chops, Fey isn't credited for the screenplay. That dubious distinction goes to director Michael McCullers, the ex-Saturday Night Live scribe who also co-wrote Austin Powers in Goldmember with Mike Myers. McCullers is a fellow used to performers spinning away from his scripts and making them better with improvisational chops and sheer force of comic will. That can result in funny moments and even a funny movie, but there's something conspicuously lazy about the script to Baby Mama.

A comedy of surrogacy, Baby Mama tells the story of Kate Holbrook (Fey), an organic supermarket executive whose biological alarm finally sounds. Single and discouraged by the five-year adoption wait, Kate hires Angie Ostrowiski, a complete mess who seems to have stepped off of The Jerry Springer Show, to bring Kate's offspring to term. The characters are pure shorthand. Kate tells us in narration, "Some women got pregnant; I got promotions" and later insults Angie with her too-close-for-comfort description of "an ignorant white-trash woman that I paid to have my kid."

Baby Mama gets off a few good sitcom barbs, as when Kate protests to her mother, "Being single is not an alternative lifestyle," only for her mom (Holland Taylor) to reply, "It is when you're 37." But the movie seems determined to coast on a great cast that screams, "Tina Fey has famous friends!" (we get it; she got Alec Baldwin to do a sitcom). Steve Martin does an unbilled supporting turn as Kate's boastful, egomaniacal boss. Sigourney Weaver plays the surrogacy go-between (taking the sting out of the satirical "37" jokes, Weaver becomes the butt of several aging jokes depsite her deathless beauty). Greg Kinnear plays Fey's love interest, Dax Shepard Poehler's lowdown beau, Romany Malco the funny doorman at Fey's apartment, and Maura Tierney her sister (SNL regulars Will Forte and Fred Armisen also pop up).

The film's skit-ishness is exemplified by a sperm-bank gag that's a lift from Conan O'Brien ("If They Mated...") and an admittedly amusing conception "music video" that has Fey and Poehler bonding to Lionel Ritchie's "Endless Love." Poehler also has a physical gag—exploited in every preview and TV spot—that's hilarious in its reduction of her childish half-wit to feral embarrassment. But the plot's predictable progression manufactures ridiculous crises that wind up in a courtroom for more tired situation comedy. Because of its loveable stars and strong supporting cast, Baby Mama is likeable enough if you're in an undemanding mood. But its toothless underachievement leaves one thinking this bun should've spent longer in the oven.

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Aspect ratios: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Number of discs: 1

Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1

Street date: 9/9/2008

Distributor: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

New to Universal DVD and Blu-ray is Baby Mama, presented in a clean, bright, colorful transfer with 5.1 surround sound. On DVD, the special edition is a flipper disc, with an anamorphic widescreen presentation on Side A and a "full frame" transfer on Side B.

On DVD, the special features are split, with some on Side A and some on Side B. Side B includes the feature commentary with writer-director Michael McCullers, producer Lorne Michaels, and cast members Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. These are an interesting bunch to hang out with for an hour and a half, and they have plenty to say (with plenty of good humor) about the film. Among the tidbits offered: Richard Gere passed on the role Steve Martin plays in the film.

There's also an amusing Alternate Ending (2:31) and Deleted Scenes (6:38), some of which qualify more as extended or alternate takes, but all of which are amusing enough. "Saturday Night Live: Legacy of Laughter" (3:18) quickly interviews Poehler, Fey, and McCullers, between behind-the-scenes clips, about how they met, their relationships, and their feelings about SNL.

Side B repeats the commentary, and adds "From Delivery to Conception: The Making of Baby Mama" (10:07), which intersperses B-roll footage with comments by Fey, Poehler, McCullers, Michaels, Sigourney Weaver, Dax Shepard, and Greg Kinnear. Also available on DVD, Baby Mama is worth a look for fans of SNL and the film's considerably talented leads.


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Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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