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Wed April 23, 2008
Funny and Serious
By John DeSando, WCBE's It's Movie Time
"They're borrowing one tiny little egg and some space." Donna Regan, surrogate mother
When a woman is 37, generating a baby before the alarm goes off is no laughing matter. Yet first-time helmer Michael McCullers makes an amusing, sometimes poignant rom-com out of not-quite-Judd-Apatow (Knocked Up) wit, but spot on one-liners about the insane race. (Kate Holbrook: What you eat, the baby eats. What you listen to, the baby listens to. Oscar: If you listen to DMX, the baby comes out goin' "Ennngghhh!")
The film is helped by some fine performances, notably Tina Fey's understated, distraught exec, Kate; Amy Poehler's wired, white-trash surrogate, Angie; and Steve Martin's New-Age entrepreneur, Barry, reminding me of how intelligently Martin can spoof anyone, even himself. But it's the script that rules, taking even the interesting mid-life-crises comedies of the last few years (40 year Old Virgin comes immediately to mind) to a new level of un-hyped reflections about parenting and careers, love and lust, among others.
Kate's meteoric rise in Barry's Whole-Foods-like company is never savaged for leaving her late to the baby business; it is rather a trade-off treated as reasonable that now must be factored in the decision to have a baby before 40 or whenever.
Even fertility, or its enhancement, gets its comeuppance with Sigourney Weaver's smarmy, smug surrogate agency head (remember her Katherine in Working Girl). In other words, while the odd-couple clich? of Kate and Angie, polar opposites, living together is unabashedly mined, the SNL and 30 Rock insights are in tact, flat at times, but overall bright commentary on a complicated contemporary situation that is both serious and funny.
The ending is the only authentic failure of the film?it's unimaginative writing is married to a Hollywood-enforced good feeling out of synch with the untidy enterprise of surrogate mothering and romantic fulfilling. In other words, because the ending is too pat and unbelievable, a surrogate writer should have been commissioned.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's It's Movie Time, which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm and on demand anytime. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com