It seems like there have been an awful lot of films dealing with pregnancy of late (“Juno,” “Knocked Up,” “Waitress”), most of which were both well received and profitable. “Baby Mama” looks to capitalize on the trend by adding its own “Odd Couple” twist.
Tina Fey plays Kate Holbrook, a successful 37-year-old businesswoman who wants to have kids but finds out she’s unable to. Denied an adoption, she is forced to hire a surrogate mother, Angie (Amy Poehler), as her last remaining alternative. Shortly thereafter, Angie splits with her common-law husband (Dax Shepard) and has to move in with Kate. The two experience some difficulties putting up with each other, and multiple plot surprises ensue.
Although this is Fey’s first time as the lead in a motion picture, she shows no problem handling the transition. Having already conquered the TV world with “SNL” and “30 Rock,” not to mention writing 2004’s hit movie “Mean Girls,” she carries over the sharp wit and deadpan manner she has honed for years. Kate, while similar to her role as Liz Lemon on “30 Rock,” has a sweeter, less outrageous side and remains a distinct multi-dimensional character. It all goes to prove how Fey has quietly developed into one of the most talented and funniest actresses working today.
The film’s other two main participants hold close ties with Fey as well. Poehler worked with Fey on “SNL,” where they became the first women team to host Weekend Update, and director Michael McCullers is a former “SNL” writer who at one time shared an office with Fey. Needless to say, there is a satirical bent and many over-the-top situational setups throughout. Poehler, who can be very hit or miss, turns in one of her better performances, playing well off Fey. Toss in a supporting cast of Greg Kinnear, Steve Martin and Sigourney Weaver, and there’s plenty of hilarity to go around.
Yet despite the talent involved, the film seems to be missing some ingredients. Most apparent is how the keen smarts and biting edge of Fey’s past work only show up every once in a while. It can only be imagined what the script, written by McCullers, would have been like if Fey herself had taken a pass at it.
Nevertheless, after viewing the uneven trailer several months ago, the final product turned out much better than expected. While falling short of the strongest comedies in recent memory, it still is one of the funniest films of the year and a cut above the average female-oriented comedy. After capturing the box office crown its opening weekend, it’s also proof mainstream audiences are starting to embrace Fey, which is the most exciting thing of all.