'Preggoland': Toronto Review

Courtesy of Toronto International Film Festival
A wan comedy about peer pressure to procreate

A fake baby opens all kinds of doors

A late-maturing woman finds she gets a lot more respect when people think she's pregnant in Preggoland, Jacob Tierney's follow-up to the 2009 Jay Baruchel comedy The Trotsky. Constructed exactly like a middlebrow studio comedy but lacking the directorial verve that might make it play like one, it's the kind of film that could generate more laughs in a packed multiplex room, but left plenty of dead air with an audience of press and industry types here in Toronto.

Screenwriter Sonja Bennett plays Ruth, who enters the film in the familiar role of the single outcast at her friend's baby shower: Badly hungover but quickly regaining her buzz via a flask, she crosses the line when she physically wounds one of these beaming mothers' angels; soon, Ruth's three best friends let her know they'd rather not hang out any more.

After buying an expensive stroller for the woman whose party she ruined, Ruth starts getting mistaken for an expectant mother. People get up for her on the bus, while encouraging smiles flash all around her. Danny (Paul Campbell), the picky new manager at the supermarket she works at, is about to fire her but the rumor gets around to him just in time to save her job; best not to tell the truth just now. And then her grandkid-hungry dad (James Caan) finds out, and hearing it's all a lie just might kill him...

Bennett comes up with plenty of ways for Ruth to dig herself in deeper, each scene calling out for a snappier performance or sharper timing. The thin characterizations of her old friends, who of course embrace her once they think she's joining the club, are as unconvincing as Ruth's new partnership with stockboy Pedro (Danny Trejo, in an almost insulting role), who gets his wife to make her a prosthetic belly in return for Ruth's help at the store.

Once people are paying attention to her, Ruth discovers a surprising new interest in her job; if this is one more plot point too easily achieved, it's easier to accept the effect her competence has on Danny, a secretly lonely guy who has always wanted a family.

"I want out," a guilty-feeling Ruth tells Pedro as she begins to reciprocate Danny's affection and starts to fear disappointing him. Evidently neither of them has heard of a miscarriage: Even after an accident at the store gives her the perfect excuse to play that card, the new Smart Ruth is still dumb about the one easy lie that would end all the hard ones.

Production companies: Optic Nerve Films, Titlecard Pictures Inc.

Cast: Sonja Bennett, Danny Trejo, Laura Harris, James Caan, Paul Campbell

Director: Jacob Tierney

Screenwriter: Sonja Bennett

Producers: Dylan Collingwood, Kevin Eastwood

Executive producers: Robert Mitchell, Raymond Fortier, John Chui

Director of photography: Steve Cosens

Production designer: Caitlin Byrnes

Costume designer: Kathi Moore

Editor: Brendan Woollard

Music: James Jandrisch

No rating, 109 minutes