Ticket price: 10.99
Seat: Rear right corner
Attendance: about 30
Weather: moderately warm and clear
Food: Dr. Pepper and Reese Bites
Pre-show ads: Coke, Telus
- The Sex and the City movie is rapidly becoming my most dreaded potential cinema experience of the year. I never really watched the show, I think I saw one episode; and while I’m sure the series was very funny and well observed and obviously captured the imaginations of many people, as an outsider I watch that trailer and I think: that movie looks like a big horrible piece of shit. I think the main reason for this reaction is that moment where Carrie says “that’s why it’s so important to have friends” or something while the foursome share the fakest looking hug on film. Ugh.
- What Happens in Vegas also looks horrible, but it doesn’t have anyone’s several years of TV seasons’ expectations weighing on it, and Ashton Kutcher does have a certain amusing mugging ability. It looks like the kind of movie I used to see on Saturday nights after 1 AM on ATV, hoping to catch a glimpse of a breast. I know, it’s pathetic either way.
- American Teen was apparently a “sundance sensation,” is apparently some kind of documentary following half a dozen real teenagers through their last year of high school, but for a documentary, the trailer is cut in such a way that they all seem to have happy endings, or at least positive growing experiences. I guess it beats ersatz documentaries like Kids, but it still struck me as off somehow.
- And Mamma Mia, what can I say? An artificial band’s music inspired a darkly edged movie, which inspired an edgeless musical, which is the source of another movie. Like their palindromic name, Abba is an endless feedback loop of crap, tailor-made for the kind of crowd-pleasing show that passes for a Broadway musical these days. Fair enough. No one is twisting my arm to see it, thank god. But I would think that the likes of Meryl Streep, Stellan Starsgaard, and Colin Firth would have better uses for their time, like screening calls from Pierce Brosnan.
Freshman director Michael McCullers brings a steady hand to his own very good script in Baby Mama, a film with an unfortunate title and an unfortunate trailer that is a surprising rival to an increasingly crowded field of winning comedies about pregnancy; Knocked Up and Juno being the best recent examples.
Like those films, this one has a familiar kind of structure that follows the course of a pregnancy, showing us the complications and realizations of those around it. Even the beats of the films are essentially the same: discovery of pregnancy (panic!), learning to cope (comedy!), a wrench is thrown into the works (growth!), and the baby is born, solving all the problems. Those who know me or who have been reading this blog for a while know that I don’t like to see the same movie over and over again. Thankfully, Baby Mama offers us more than the same old engine with a new body.
The cast demonstrates repeatedly that they come from a comedy and improvisation background: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are central, of course, but there is also strong supporting work by Steve Martin, Sigourney Weaver, Maura Teirney, Ramony Malco, and Greg Kinnear. Practically every scene has a moment where someone is given or has invented something funny to do that was probably not in the script. This is understandable when you consider that the writer and director was also a writer for Saturday Night Live who went on to script subversive comedies like Undercover Brother and Austin Powers: Goldmember. McCullers has enough confidence in his story and his cast to not hammer every laugh home.
The comedy here is sometimes obvious and easy, but not always. There are some surprising shots taken at modern ideas of pregnancy and adoption, particularly at the idea of Sigourney Weaver’s older woman having children at her age. Steve Martin steals scenes as Fey’s hippie-sellout boss while Greg Kinnear is a former lawyer who wants to make a difference but is still a bit judgemental. The film does a good job of building up the skeleton of the script with various types of class conflict, incorporating small dramatic moments as a kind of reverse comic relief.
Well observed, well performed, even well-scored, Baby Mama does not have the most original plot you will ever see, but it was still a pleasant surprise from beginning to end. Check it out if you get the chance.
Crowd reaction at end of movie: positive
Credit cookie?: no
For further consideration: listen for Marshall Crenshaw’s “This Street” in the soundtrack, and if you’re sore at me about the Abba comments above, check out his cover of “Knowing Me, Knowing You.”
Opening next week: Made of Honor, Iron Man, Son of Rambow, Mister Lonely, Redbelt
Please god, anything but: Made of Honor