Infantmania: Baby Mama

(Warning: this post contains spoilers)

On the Internet Movie Database, one commentator’s review title suggests that Baby Mama (2008 ) is the perfect Anti-Apatow movie. That’s not quite an accurate description. Even at the end of Knocked Up, once-reluctant parents drive off with Baby at their side, ready to welcome the challenges and pleasures of parenthood… and cue the music!

But, the difference between the two movies is that in Baby Mama, baby infatuation is there from the start. Tina Fey plays Kate Holbrook. A 37 year-old, single, corporate success who tries desperately to oblige the slowing tick of her biological clock. She’s succumbed to an obsession where everything reminds her of babies. When she learns that her physiology may prevent her from getting pregnant, she seeks all manner of alternatives like in vitro fertilization, sperm donors, and adoption before finally settling on a surrogate mother service run by a woman (Sigourney Weaver) who can’t seem to stop having babies.

Although assured that the service’s screening process is rigorous enough to find the perfect surrogate mother in every way, Kate instead finds herself contractually bound to Angie Ostrowiski, a clean version of Philly’s answer to white trash played by fellow Saturday Night Live veteran, Amy Poehler. Though she’s expected to be the ostentatious candidate, as the female co-star of a moralistic semi-drama, she’s obligated to be less crude, and eventually more aware that her common law husband, Carl (Dax Shepard) is a total idiot who may interfere and mess up the pregnancy. When Angie breaks up with Carl, she winds up moving in with paranoid and prim future mom, Kate, forging the female odd couple.

Eventually, the two have to learn to adjust to each other, despite Kate’s attempts to quickly reform irresponsible Angie to her liking such as forcing her to purge her poor eating habits. Although, Angie too, tries to get Kate to simply ease in her own conservative stubbornness by taking her clubbing, for example.

Aww… they’re just like sisters!

With their increasing compatibility, Kate Holbrook might finally get what she desires most – the joy of raising a child. But of course, viewers should be raising their too-good-to-be-true flags even in a Rob Reiner-esque Perfect White World like this. Something is going to go wrong.

As it turns out, the whole thing is a scam hatched by Carl, where he and Angie pretend that she’ pregnant in order to collect the check. But karma comes back to bite them, and Angie is in for a big surprise herself.

Oh yeah… more babies!

The criticisms of this film have a common thread among them – casting the “envelop-pushing” Fey and Poehler in the leading roles attached an expectation that Baby Mama would be a display of similarly outrageous satire. It wasn’t. In fact this movie seemed more suitable for the likes of Cameron Diaz and Kate Hudson.

Saturday Night Live writer, Michael McCullers, steered painstakingly towards conventional romantic comedy and even coalesces on moral grounds. To begin with, Angie and Carl are, with few exceptions, innocuously trashy. And of course, everyone finds redemption in… you guessed it… parenthood. Sure Kate may have jumped into bed with the charming neighborhood juice bar owner (Greg Kinnear) on the first date, but it’s okay, because not only will she eventually discover she is (at last!) pregnant, but that it’s likely to be legitimated with a ring. And Kinnear is already a father to a charming 12 year-old he visits on the weekend. Meanwhile, Angie and Carl will be forced towards the path of at least some responsibility when Angie learns that in fact, she’s pregnant too. And the doorman to Kate’s luxury apartment building (the token black character here), who once explaining the meaning of “Baby Mama,” drawing on his own experience of having two, also eventually embraces perfect parenting. It is not surprising then to end the movie like Ron Howard’s saccharine and pastel perfect Parenthood ending, where it’s babies abound.

Honestly, are women just getting pregnant from the water?

Even Judd Apatow’s version of the rites of passage tolerated certain perpetual parental doubt and fear and above all, limited it’s baby count. Apatow isn’t really an opposite extreme, but if anything, it drains the overzealous realities of Baby Mama.

Now to go finish my copy of Alternadad.


One Response

  1. Clearly the best part of this movie was Greg Kinnear’s reference to the Mutter Museum.

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