If Baby Mama were a more (stereo)typical Holly-com, it would star, say, Cameron Diaz and Amanda Peet and it would be rubbish. Much falling over, mugging to camera and long-in-the-tooth cuteness would occur, but you’d be hard pushed to summon more than a guffaw.
Instead, with producer and Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels casting two of his most talented finds – Tina Fey (whose award-winning sitcom 30 Rock he exec-produces) and Blades Of Glory’s Amy Poehler – in a script by SNL alumnus Michael McCullers (who co-wrote the last two Austin Powers movies), Baby Mama rises comfortably above formula foundations.
And it’s not just the leads who succeed; Steve Martin getting effortless laughs as Barry, the ecologist heading up the green grocery chain where Fey’s career-girl Kate works. Promoted to vice president (and rewarded with “five minutes uninterrupted eye contact” with ponytailed, sock-free Barry), Kate celebrates with a trip to the sperm bank but, alas, her womb is unwelcoming (“I just don’t like your uterus,” sighs the specialist) and a foetus not forthcoming.
Instead, she drops $100,000 at a surrogacy centre, where she notes, “It costs more to have someone born than it does to have someone killed!”
She’s paired with Poehler’s pregnant white-trashy Angie – who promptly splits from oaf boyfriend Dax Shepard and moves in. Cue odd-couple antics (peeing in sinks, Singstar sessions, farting in handbags...), refreshed by the chemistry between the long-time colleagues, a sweet subplot with the always excellent Greg Kinnear’s dreamy smoothie-seller and a twist to the nine-months blitz, which we won’t reveal here.
It’s not faultless – McCullers cranks out zingers but doesn’t distinguish himself as a director, the score (penned by Fey’s composer husband, Jeff Richmond) is über-schmaltzy and it all goes a bit Parenthood at the end – but it is very funny. A bundle of joy, to be crass.
Using the same science behind the success of Will Ferrell and Steve Carell - cast a comedian in a comedy... et voila - Baby Mama emerges as more than just another pregnancy flick. Not an immaculate conception, but several belly laughs.