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Although it certainly sets the stage for some fertile comedy, “Baby Mama” — which pairs successful Philadelphia exec Tina Fey with her decidedly white-trash surrogate, Amy Poehler — never fully delivers.
Backed by a crackerjack supporting cast, including Sigourney Weaver and Steve Martin, the new millennium take on “Baby Boom” serves up plenty of smart, knowing laughs early on, but by the time it hits the third act (or would that be trimester?), it barely crawls to the finish line.
In his feature directorial debut, screenwriter Michael McCullers knows how to craft a decent zinger, but his loopy brand of urbane humor really cries out for the skills of a seasoned comedy director with a proven knack for crucial things such as pacing and momentum.
The end result still should play very respectably with its targeted female audience — especially those who can identify with Fey’s ticking clock — but it will likely fall short of Judd Apatow levels.
Fey makes an effective transition from her Emmy-winning “30 Rock” character to that of Kate, the unmarried vice president of Round Earth Organic Market, the Whole Foods-esque chain presided over by an amusingly Zen Steve Martin.
The only thing missing in Kate’s life is a baby, and after being informed by a fertility specialist that her odds of getting pregnant run about one in a million, she opts to visit a pricey surrogacy center run by the imposing Chaffee Bicknell (a wonderful Sigourney Weaver).
But the woman chosen to carry her child — Poehler’s gum-cracking, cocktail-swigging Angie Ostrowiski — couldn’t be more different from buttoned-down Kate, and when the plot mechanics require that the two share close living quarters, the inevitable “Odd Couple” shenanigans ensue.
McCullers, who once shared an office with Fey when they were both writing for “Saturday Night Live,” manages to nail her wry sensibility while finally giving Poehler a feature platform worthy of her considerable “SNL” talents.
Unfortunately, his inexperience behind the camera is evident in too many missed comic opportunities — either he steps on the laugh by hurrying a clever bit of business or weighs it down by giving it one beat too many.
Luckily, his expert cast, also including Greg Kinnear as Fay’s fruit smoothie-dispensing potential love interest, Holland Taylor as her strongly opinionated mother, Dax Shepard as Poehler’s scheming common-law husband and Romany Malco as an all-seeing doorman, manages to keep this baby sufficiently entertaining.
Universal Pictures presents in association with Relativity Media a Michaels/Goldwyn production
Director-screenwriter: Michael McCullers
Producers: Lorne Michaels, John Goldwyn
Executive producers: Jill Messick, Louise Rosner, Ryan Kavanaugh
Director of photography: Daryn Okada
Production designer: Jess Gonchor
Music: Jeff Richmond
Co-producer: Kay Cannon
designer: Renee Ehrlich Kalfus
Editor: Bruce Green
Kate: Tina Fey
Angie: Amy Poehler
Rob: Greg Kinnear
Carl: Dax Shepard
Oscar: Romany Malco
Caroline: Maura Tierney
Rose: Holland Taylor
Chaffee Bicknell: Sigourney Weaver
Barry: Steve Martin
Running time — 99 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13
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