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Oh Baby!

Comic chemistry of SNL alums drives one of the year’s funniest films

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Maybe it’s the approximately 15 years of doing improv sketches together, both in Chicago at Second City and the iO Theater and then more famously on Saturday Night Live, that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler share. Or perhaps it’s that other magic the two actresses also display — exquisite comic timing and “chemistry.” It doesn’t hurt that Baby Mama also features a well-honed script and some terrific supporting players to round out the picture.

Put it all together, and you have one of the funniest movies to be released so far this year.

While Baby Mama will be quickly perceived as a “chick flick” or a “girls-night-out” moviegoing experience (the title alone makes that pretty obvious), let’s hope that a lot of men, especially married ones or those in committed relationships, go to see this film. For while it is hilariously funny, Baby Mama also makes some poignant statements about the nature of romantic relationships, the desire to parent and the whole concept of nurturing.

Fey plays Kate Holbrook, an intelligent and creative, hard-driving single career woman who finds herself at age 37 increasingly anxious to become a mother. For years, she never gave the idea of having kids much thought as she concentrated on moving up the corporate ladder. Now, as vice president of a successful chain of health-food grocery stores (named Round Earth, an obvious homage to Whole Foods), she’s been handed her company’s latest challenge — sole responsibility for opening a new store in a gentrifying Philadelphia neighborhood.

After disappointing attempts to become pregnant via artificial insemination, Kate considers the adoption route, where she quickly learns she’s low on the totem pole. Even today, financially secure, emotionally stable single women find it can be difficult to adopt an American child through traditional agency procedures. She ends up on the doorstep of Sigourney Weaver’s very expensive (Hello! Try $100,000!) agency that provides “foolproof” connections with highly screened surrogates — women who will, for a fee, carry an infertile woman’s child to full term.

The comedy takes a wonderful turn when Kate discovers she’s paired with Angie (Poehler), a girl from what used to be called the “wrong side of the tracks,” who has been talked into this whole surrogate thing by her boyfriend, Carl (Dax Shepard). He’s a ne’er-do-well get-rich-quick kind of guy who refers to himself as Angie’s “common-law” husband.

Kate and Angie come from such different worlds, yet despite any number of issues (including one big one, which I won’t give away), they bond in a bizarre but charming and sweet way. After a fight with Carl, Angie moves into Kate’s upscale digs — and then the fun really begins.

Fey and Poehler are absolutely perfect in their roles, with Fey superbly understated (as she usually is) as the “straight woman” reacting to Poehler’s absurdity. They also are blessed with a fine ensemble of supporting players. Weaver, as surrogate agency owner Chaffee Bicknell, is solid — milking plenty of laughs from the fact that she’s able to conceive the “old-fashioned” way, despite being well into her 50s.

Steve Martin clearly is having the time of his life playing the eco-friendly Barry, the founder of Round Earth, who is obsessed by new-age philosophical psychobabble and the ability to make a fortune as he capitalizes on America’s current devotion to all things eco-friendly.

As Carl, Shepard delivers a spot-on performance as a good old boy who really ain’t so good. And an actually believable love interest develops when Kate goes into a neighborhood juice bar (“It’s NOT Jamba Juice!!!”) run by the conveniently single Rob (Greg Kinnear) as she’s secretly scouting out the neighborhood for that new Round Earth outlet.

This is the kind of subplot that could have sidetracked writer-director Michael McCullers. He makes only passing reference to neighbors’ concerns about the big conglomerate (Round Earth) swooping in and potentially putting small, independent merchants out of business.

No, that doesn’t happen, and the fun-filled yet poignant romp that is Baby Mama is never diluted or messed up. Here’s a winner from start to finish.

Baby Mama


Stars: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Greg Kinnear

Director: Michael McCullers

Rated: PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, language and a drug reference

Theaters: Century Olympia, Galaxy Tacoma 6, Galaxy Uptown Theatre, Lakewood Cinema 15, Lakewood Towne Center 12, Longston Place 14, Regal Martin Village 16, Yelm Cinemas @ Prairie Park

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