Mama mia!

BABY MAMA Di­rected by Michael McCullers. Star­ring Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Greg Kin­n­ear, Dax Shep­ard, Ro­many Malco, Maura Tier­ney cert, gen re­lease, 99 min

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Listings - DON­ALD CLARKE

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

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