Baby Mama

K.C. Bailey/Universal Studios
Michael McCullers/United States 2008

Amy Poehler yelled at me. It was about a year ago. My best friend was acting in an improv comedy marathon with Poehler’s Upright Citizen’s Brigade in New York City and when I went to take a picture of her, sans-flash (not against the rules, by the way), she stopped in the middle of her sketch, glared straight at me and told me to knock it off. I still carry the scars of that terrible day. And now, after seeing her and Tina Fey’s new comedy, Baby Mama, I have but one message for Ms. Poehler: “All is forgiven.”

Kate Holbrook (Fey) is a single, 37-year-old executive who has always put her professional life before her personal life. But lately her biological clock has been thundering in her ears and the successful vice president of an organic food company is determined to have a baby. There’s just one problem: According to her doctor, she has a million-to-one chance of conceiving naturally. Undeterred and determined to tackle this problem as she does all other things in her life – methodically and on her own terms – Kate decides to hire a surrogate mother. Enter South Philly working girl (read white trash) Angie Ostrowski (Poehler), who could not be more different from Kate if she tried.

With Angie artificially inseminated, Kate gets to work. She begins devouring every childcare book in sight, baby-proofing her apartment and prepping the nursery. But all of her well-ordered plans fly apart when Angie shows up on her doorstep without a place to live. As the months tick by and the structured Kate attempts to mold the freewheeling Angie into the textbook expectant mom, life becomes one gigantic, comic tug-of-war.

Fey and Poehler are hilarious as a modern-day, estrogen odd couple, more than once evoking the eccentric hilarity of Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon. Their verbal fist-a-cuffs leave us in stitches. Poehler’s body language says more than the script could ever reveal, and Fey (looking remarkably like Lea Thompson at times) shows that her comedic brilliance on television’s 30 Rock is far from a fluke. So it’s a bit of a surprise that the supporting cast is as good, if not better than the leads.

A pony-tailed Steve Martin absolutely shines as Kate’s Zen-spouting boss, Sigourney Weaver is riotous as the fertile head of the surrogacy center, and the always buoyant Greg Kinnear is a welcome addition as Kate’s surprise love interest. Maura Tierney – who appears to have inherited the role of comedy sister sidekick – Daily Show alum John Hodgeman, Romany Malco (best known for his role in The 40-year-Old Virgin) and fellow Saturday Night Live vet Dax Shepard round out the hilarious cast.

When was the last time you were presented with a film featuring SNL actors that didn’t send you running for the hills? Baby Mama is an uproarious – if occasionally uneven – summer treat. While one could easily argue that writer and first-time director Michael McCullers’ film follows a tried and true, well-worn formula, one also cannot overlook the vivacious energy and radiant charisma with which his stars thread the predictable narrative through its clichéd signposts to an endearing and sweet conclusion.

Baby fever has certainly been prowling the cinematic zeitgeist of late. Baby Mama represents the perfect female antidote to the Apatow factory’s hilarious but admittedly male-centric perspective on the birds and the bees and what comes after.

© 2008 Brandon Fibbs. All rights reserved.

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