Baby Madness: It's All in the Delivery

Maui Time | April 21, 2008
Baby madness happily invades the brain of Philadelphia bachelorette and thriving businesswoman Kate Holbrook (gleefully played by Tina Fey) who, at the ripe age of 37, hires a surrogate mom to birth her sperm bank assisted baby. Amy Poehler plays Angie Ostrowiski, the white trash bimbet whose uterus will host Kate's kin while she soaks up Kate's upper class lifestyle as her temporary roommate. Poehler and Fey display a snappy on-screen chemistry that supports writer/director Michael McCullers' quick-witted set pieces. Steve Martin makes a rare and humorous appearance as Kate's crunchy granola boss, and supporting cast members Greg Kinnear, Sigourney Weaver, Romany Malco and Maura Tierney keep the laughs bubbling. Surrogate motherhood is the comic topic of the day, and this is one funny chick flick that won't rankle male members of the audience.

Michael McCullers (co-writer on the Austin Powers movies) makes a feature film debut that profits hugely from Saturday Night Live as a pervasive influence of tone. The obvious consequence of former SNL cast members Poehler, Fey, and Martin working together as firmly established comedians working at the top of their game, lends an underlying wink of absurdity to everything that happens.

Tina Fey loses herself in a role that draws you in on a primal level because everyone understands the alarm of a woman's biological clock going off like a three-alarm fire. McCullers pays attention to detail to mine humor from Kate's trips to the sperm bank, bathroom, and surrogate baby company consultant Chaffee Bicknell (Sigourney Weaver), whose ability to give birth in her '50s backhandedly ridicules Kate's desperation.

Class conflict is at the core of the story. Angie is a trash-talking girlfriend to her high school beau Carl (Dax Shepherd), who still drives around in the same old red Trans Am and has an eye on splitting the $10,000 from Angie's surrogate pregnancy. Dax Shepherd may only have one character in his repertoire, but he knows it well. Carl is set up as a false antagonist pulling at Angie, whose entree into a world of financial liberty brings out her true nature as a responsible adult, but only after many goofy incidents.

One great example of Angie's confused social graces comes when she answers Kate's door to find Kate's courting love interest Rob (Greg Kinnear). "Do come in," Angie says with an emphasis on the "do." Amy Poehler's comic phrasing goes off on a tear as she lies about being Kate's sister and takes a cell phone call from Europe for which she speaks broken Spanish. Kate leaves for her date with Rob with her toothbrush sticking out of her mouth. It's these kind of detailed comic touches that keep adding up to reveal layers of character in Kate and Angie as opposite sides of the same coin.

"Baby Mama," a ghetto term turned mainstream thanks to K-Fed and Britney Spears, is a comedy of female humor set to spin by its gifted performers. The film's producers' aim to attract viewers for Tina Fey's television show "30 Rock" is a worthy goal if generating this level of comedy is the thing movie audiences get in exchange. As with all comedy, it's all in the delivery.

Rated PG-13, 87 mins. (B+)

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