Tina Fey. Amy Poehler. Sigourney Weaver. There’s nothing else I could possibly say.
Okay, all seriousness aside, Baby Mama is a great little film. I saw it in the theatre and if I hadn’t already been madly in love with Tina Fey, I realized I was really, truthfully in love with Tina Fey. She is quite possibly the best thing to come out of SNL since, well, Amy Poehler. Who, by the way is making her way into my heart with her dry delivery and physical humor.
Baby Mama centers around Kate (played by Fey), a successful single business woman who “did everything she was supposed to,” and despite her disgusting success — she’s a VP at a huge natural food chain at the age of 37 — finds a little something lacking from her life and decides she wants a baby.
The initial scene, in which Kate does a voiceover to a quick-clip montage sounds like a down and dirty audience catch up, until you realize she’s saying “I’m 37, I want a baby…now” to someone she’s on a blind date with. Yes, Kate. That’s too much…just watch him flee as soon as possible. As the title credits continue, how much do you love watching Tina Fey googlie eye every baby she comes across (and some she imagines)? I wonder how long she had to practice that face. It’s almost as adorable as the barrage of babies throughout the title.
I’m glad it doesn’t take too long to get the audience to the fact that Kate can’t have babies (even though, I gotta tell you, I love people who get behind motivational post-it notes on a scale this large). It’s painful watching someone who wants something so much be denied at every turn…when she returns to the fertility clinic after many (count them: nine) failed attempts to conceive at home, her doctor tells her flatly: “I just don’t like your uterus…that combined with your advanced maternal age…” Poor Kate – with her maternal drive being block at every turn, what is she to do?
The following scene, we’re introduced to Kate’s sister, Caroline (played by ER’s Maura Tierney) and Kate’s Mom. I love the conversational discourse that follows over dinner when Kate divulges she is unable to conceive because of some medications her mother took when she was pregnant.
Kate’s Mom: “You know Kate, not everyone is as accepting of your alternative lifestyle…”
Kate: “Being single is not an alternative lifestyle.”
Kate’s Mom: “It is when you’re 37.”
Enter Steve Martin as Kate’s boss Barry the following day when Kate goes to work – Steve is fantastic in this film as the over the top baby boomer hippy CEO of Round Earth – and is promoted. With everything falling into place at work, Kate takes her “baby mania” to the next level and finds her way to a surrogate parenting agency run by Chaffee Bicknell (played by the ever-fabulous, ever-gorgeous Sigourney Weaver).
Chaffee Bicknell: “Our fee is $100,000.”
Kate: “It costs more to have someone born than to have someone killed!”
Chaffee: “It takes longer…”
The dialogue in Baby Mama is absolutely brilliant, huge kudos to writer/director Michael McCullers. I could spend this entire post just quoting the film. A lot of what sets Baby Mama apart from the usual strain of comedy films in recent years is the film’s sparkling, witty, acidic dialogue. The film doesn’t rely upon gags or physical humor — although the film has plenty of both. Expect Tina Fey’s trademark nerdy-sexiness and self-deprecating delivery throughout. And, when paired with Amy Poehler’s physical humor (watch the brilliant timing and delivery during the fertilization scene) you’re in for a treat as soon as these two characters get together.
Kate: “I’m the vice president of Round Earth foods…”
Angie: “So you take over if the president gets shot.”
Kate: “Something like that…”
Angie: “I want you to put your baby inside me.”
Kate: “Angie, I’m going to put my baby inside you.”
After Angie and Kate decide they’re going to get knocked up, they proceed to the fertilization clinic — to the sound of “Endless Love” — and Angie is impregnated. Meanwhile, to help ease us through the passage of time, Kate has been tasked with finding a location and creating a Philadelphia flagship store for Round Earth. It is during her search for the location that she meets SuperFruity businessman, Rob (played by Greg Kinnear – never liked him very much until his turn in Little Miss Sunshine, now I enjoy the heck out of him).
Six weeks pass, and Angie reports she’s pregnant! Hurray! We’re going to have a baby!
Kate, in her exuberance, doesn’t think twice when Angie drops in with all of her luggage after breaking up with her boyfriend Carl (Idiocracy’s Dax Shepard) one night. And why shouldn’t she let Angie cohabit for a little while? Angie’s carrying her baby, after all. Let the baby mama drama begin…
And it doesn’t stop. Angie breaks rule after rule (Kate’s rules, that is — no Red Bull! What you eat, the baby eats!), and basically does whatever she wants despite the fact she’s being paid to give birth to Kate’s child. Enjoy the prenatal vitamin scene — it will kill you when Kate says “no I can’t put it up your butt!” What’s so delightful about this film is the relationship between these two women. Chemistry is everything in comedy – it’s as important here as it is in romantic films – and Poehler and Fey have it in spades. Ultimately, it is this chemistry that drives the story, not Kate’s maternal quest. In fact, I’m pretty sure you could substitute any other human pursuit for Kate’s baby mania and still have a solid story line as long as these two women would be forced to cohabitate throughout the film.
Okay, yes, a lot of Baby Mama is formulaic – but comedy is a formula, especially comedic films that can speak to a broad range of people. You won’t mind it. Just commit yourself to the ride – as I’m constantly saying – and you’ll find yourself laughing out loud when these two women start birthing classes after Chaffee Bicknell lectures them on the importance of getting along, or when Kate shoves Angie (fully clothed) into the shower and sprays her down when she finds her coloring her roots.
I don’t know how Tina Fey went completely unnoticed in Hollywood cinema for as long as she did – she is a perfect contemporary to old school comedic actresses like…well…unlike anyone, actually now that I’m thinking about it. Her self-deprecating sense of humor, her outwardly shy demeanor, her geeky goodness (her willingness to sex-up those little brown glasses make all of us who wear glasses very happy) are incomparable to many of her well-known peers and silver screen legends like Carol Burnett, Madaline Kahn, or Lucille Ball. What endears us to Fey and the characters she portrays is her ability to be a inwardly strong, outwardly awkward, smart, quirky, flawed woman – we all know one of these ladies, and we all secretly love them. I mean, is it just me, or do you love it when Angie hauls Kate out to celebrate and as they pass the concierge Oscar, Angie winks but Kate blinks?
The night out scene is fantastic – especially with Kate doing the vogue, being fed drink after drink by a drunk-on-the-sly Angie, doing a kind of river dance, and later spinning the vinyl to rock the house with “The Lady in Red.” It’s important for us to recognize these women were at polar opposites before, but somehow have managed to reach a middle ground where they can not only stand each other, but actually enjoy each other’s company. After all, in comedy (as well as drama) that’s when they like to pull the rug out from underneath you…
SPOILER ALERT: don’t read the following paragraph – skip to “The final word.”
Of course, it’s all a sham. Angie is no more pregnant with Kate’s baby than she is pregnant with an elephant’s baby. Oh wait. She ends up being pregnant with Carl’s baby, which is probably worse in many regards than being pregnant with an elephant’s baby.
The final word: Baby Mama is formulaic, but what it lacks in originality (after all, it’s not every day we get to make fun of surrogacy – and we probably should try to keep everything in perspective these days, even the outsourcing of our pregnancies) it makes up for in dialogue and casting. The cast, the entire cast, is absolutely pitch-perfect — although, I would still argue that you could replace Kinnear with any other 40-something actor and still have a perfect sperm donor for Kate — and I relish any opportunity to watch Tina Fey and Amy Poehler do what they do best. Must watch – must own – must appreciate.