BABY MAMA Directed by Michael McCullers. Starring Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Greg Kinnear, Dax Shepard, Romany Malco, Maura Tierney cert, gen release, 99 min
12A TINA FEY, instigator of Mean Girls and the television series 30 Rock, is rumoured to be a woman of some intelligence. It is therefore not unreasonable to hope that this latest odd-couple comedy – Fey’s smug executive employs Amy Poehler’s dumb poor person as a surrogate mother – might turn out to be a little more thoughtful than the average chuckle bucket. As it happens, the two actors spark off one another effectively and Michael McCullers’s tidy script allows them space to breathe. But as the film surges into its final trimester, its conventionality and lack of ambition become apparent. Baby Mama could not be confused with the work of Adam Sandler, but nobody is going to mistake it for a Billy Wilder flick either.
Fey pulls on her trademark prim glasses and pinched features to play a senior employee at a chain of health-food stores. Too busy to extract fluids from a suitable man and cursed with the wrong sort of uterus for childbirth, she visits an upmarket agency – run by Sigourney Weaver – and arranges for an unemployed wastrel to carry a baby.
There is plenty to complain about in Baby Mama, but a host of excellent comic performances help the time pass pleasurably enough. Felix Ungar to Poehler’s Oscar Madison, Fey creates a strangely likeable character whose anal obsessions never quite drift into psychosis, while her sparring partner demonstrates that a talented actor can turn even the broadest jokes – peeing in the sink, anyone? – into comedy gold. Cameos by Weaver and (no, really) Steve Martin are equally amusing.
Still, there is something deeply suspect in the scenario. The film-makers would point out that, although the movie represents its poor characters as unwashed and unintelligent, it still takes time to poke fun at wealthy narcissistic yuppies. Maybe so, but nobody glancing at Baby Mama would have any doubt as to where our sympathies are expected to lie. We are Ms Fey and Ms Fey is us.
The film’s inherently old-fashioned, conservative attitude is confirmed when, at the inevitable birth scene, one of the characters actually falls into a comical faint. The last time I saw that gag on screen, Norman Wisdom had just heard worrying news about Mr Grimsdale.
Tina Fey (left) and Angie Ostrowiski in Baby Mama