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Baby Mama (2008)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/9/2008

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/3/2008

It's often been said that we should learn from our own mistakes. More importantly, we should learn from the mistakes of others. Many, many actors who have made their mark on television have then attempted to make the leap to feature films. And many of those actors have failed in that first attempt. The problem usually comes from the fact that the films are too simplistic. Tina Fey, former writer and actor from Saturday Night Live, who currently stars in 30 Rock, a series which she created, has made a reputation for being smart and creating smart comedy. "Smart" isn't a word which I would use to describe her big-screen stumble, Baby Mama. (I wrote about something similar in my review for So I Married an Axe Murderer.)

Fey stars in Baby Mama as Kate Holbrook, a successful woman in her late 30s who works for an organic grocery-store chain. She is single and she really wants a baby. When artificial insemination and adoption don't work, she looks into hiring a surrogate. She approached the agency of Chaffee Bicknell (Sigourney Weaver), who (for a large fee) arrange a surrogate for Kate. She is very surprised when she meets Angie (Amy Poehler) and her common-law husband, Carl (Dax Shepard), as Angie is a bit more...rough around the edges than Kate had expected. But, Kate is determined to have a baby and the fertilized eggs are inserted into Angie. Kate's excitement over the process is diminished somewhat when Angie suddenly appears on her doorstep, as she caught Carl cheating. While Kate isn't crazy about having Angie move in, she does want to oversee the pregnancy and agrees. However, Angie's ignorance about everyday life and her messiness soon take their toll on Kate, who has a huge project happening at work. Is having a baby worth all of this?

As noted above, Tina Fey has garnered a reputation for creating timely and intelligent comedy which doesn't play down to the audience. From her time behind the news desk and serving as head-writer at Saturday Night Live to her screenplay for Mean Girls to her work on the vastly underrated 30 Rock, Fey has been responsible for a brand of comedy which is fast and loose, but also very imaginative and clever. So, why she would want to be associated with a movie like Baby Mama is beyond me.

It's really difficult to identify where things first go wrong in Baby Mama. We've seen the premise of the woman with the ticking biological clock many times before and this movie brings nothing new to this concept. The cultural clash between Kate and Angie is similar to films such as Trading Places or Bringing Down the House. The subplots of Kate's job and her relationship with Rob (Greg Kinnear) never feel fully developed. Kate is assured by Chaffee that all of their surrogates go through an intense screening process and Kate gets Angie. Was Chaffee lying? This is never re-visited.

Script issues aside, the biggest problem with Baby Mama is that it simply isn't funny. Again, I've enjoyed Fey's work on other projects, but this movie just falls flat. The funniest bit, where Angie urinates in the sink, was in the trailer. When Steve Martin arrives on-screen sporting a pony-tail, we laugh in anticipation of what this veteran funny-man is going to do...but even he's never funny. However, blame can't go to Fey. Despite the fact that her appearances on talk shows to promote the film wanted us to think that she'd written it, the film was actually penned (and directed) by Michael McCullers, who's a veteran of Saturday Night Live and the Austin Powers films. He's made the comedy here far too broad and predictable, robbing the talented actors of anything with which to play.

I don't know if someone at Saturday Night Live had a surrogate, but that idea certainly was kicking around the set. First, Will Forte brings us the wonderfully bizarre The Brothers Solomon, and now an SNL writer and actress deliver Baby Mama. The Brothers Solomon may have flopped, but at least it was funny. The only truly positive thing that I can say about Baby Mama, is that I didn't see the first plot twist coming. (This is probably due to the fact that it was kept out of the trailer.) However, following this moment, the movie goes back to being predictable. After all is said and done, Tina Fey is pretty good in the movie and she shows that she's great at being the straight man. But, let's hope that she heads straight into a better movie next time.

Baby Mama gestates on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc offers a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is quite sharp and clear, showing virtually no grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look very good and the image is never overly bright. The picture does suffer slightly when it comes to depth. The image is somewhat flat and doesn't offer the depth seen on other Blu-rays. On the plus side, the picture does show a nice amount of detail. The Disc contains a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. However, the audio isn't as good as that found on other Blu-rays, especially other Universal Discs. The dialogue is always audible and there are some nicely detailed stereo effects, but that's really it. I realize that this is a comedy, but the audio could have been more dynamic. The only time that it truly comes to life is during a nightclub scene, where the bass-laden music is suddenly filling the speakers and pummeling the subwoofer.

The Baby Mama Blu-ray Disc contains only two extras. We start with an AUDIO COMMENTARY with Writer/Director Michael McCullers, Producer Lorne Michaels and Cast Members Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. This is a fun and informative talk. The group discusses the making of the film, the actors, and the locations, while Fey and Poehler provide humorous comments about their work on the movie. The other extra is the "U-Control" feature which has "Picture-in-Picture" segments that appear throughout the film. These have interviews with the cast and filmmakers who discuss many facets of the movie. We also get some behind-the-scenes footage. (This is just a hunch, but I'd be willing to wager that some of this is simply the featurettes from the DVD split into smaller pieces.)

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long