While too safe and superficial to do justice to its potentially stimulating subject matter, “Baby Mama” is a passably amusing comedy about surrogacy, infertility, single motherhood, gurgling infants, childproof toilets and other aspects of the birthing and baby shebang.
A solid cast, led by two funny women, keeps uneven material from sinking.
Former “Saturday Night Life” cast mates Tina Fey and Amy Poehler star in the film, which was penned not by Fey — a former “SNL” head writer and the author of “Mean Girls” — but by “SNL” alum Michael McCullers, who also directed the movie.
He delivers a combination knocked-up and odd-couple comedy that is agreeable but lacks Fey’s edge.
Fey plays Kate, a single, successful 37-year-old Philadelphia organic-grocery-chain VP who wants a baby but has been unable to conceive. (“I just don’t like your uterus,” says the doc.)
A surrogacy-clinic visit yields Angie (Poehler), a working-class free spirit who hops out of a jalopy and is hired to carry Kate’s fertilized egg to term. Angie indeed gets pregnant.
Soon, unstructured, junk-food-eating Angie leaves her loutish, cheating common-law husband (Dax Shepard) and moves in with orderly, health-conscious Kate. The two clash and slowly bond. Angie loosens Kate up; Kate helps Angie mature.
McCullers, whose writing credits include two Austin Powers flicks, takes few risks in this directorial debut. He doesn’t explore the physical or emotional facets of surrogate motherhood and only lightly addresses the class element inherent in arrangements where poor women act as incubators for rich women.
Kate’s romance with a juice-bar owner (Greg Kinnear) goes nowhere interesting. The plot twists are routine. The broad gags fizzle. The ending is embarrassingly mushy.
But if you expect neither serious punch nor profundity, the movie should satisfy as an amiable female-buddy comedy and a lighthearted look at the baby biz.
McCullers’ hit-and-miss screenplay contains occasional zip: “We have a play date with Wingspan and Banjo.”The top-notch cast, meanwhile, provides particular sharpness and spark. Fey and Poehler display winning rapport and take their characters into funny andaffecting friendship territory. Smart comics and decent actors, they give the film personality and a pulse.
Colorful supporting performances also warrant mention. Romany Malco steals numerous scenes as Kate’s wisecracking doorman.
Sigourney Weaver triumphs as a surrogacy magnate who says, matter-of-factly, “We outsource.” Steve Martin is equally fine as Kate’s new-agey, ponytailed boss, who rewards productive employees with five minutes of nonstop eye contact.
Baby Mama (3 stars)
Starring Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Greg Kinnear, Steve Martin
Written and directed by Michael McCullers
Running time 1 hour 39 minutes