'The Babymakers' Delivers Zero Laughs
Glenn Kenny, Special to MSN Movies
I've had a lot of laughs with the movies made by the Broken Lizard comedy troupe. 2004's "Club Dread" and particularly 2001's "Super Troopers" were raucous, vulgar genre sendups that got a lot of mileage out of both breakneck joke delivery and well-built set pieces of inspired comic timing. Hefty performer Kevin Heffernan's fast-food joint meltdown in "Super Troopers" has me breaking into guffaws just thinking about it. The pictures took "Kentucky Fried Movie"-influenced pastiche chops and filtered them through "Animal House"-style gross-guys-rule narratives that were all the more pleasing for not taking themselves too seriously.
"The Babymakers" is not a Broken Lizard picture, but it is collaboration between the aforementioned Heffernan and Jay Chandrasekhar, who co-wrote, starred in, and directed all of the Broken Lizard movies. Given that this movie's themes are parenthood and adult responsibility, two things none of the Broken Lizard films cared to examine in much detail, you could say that it represents an attempt for Broken Lizard to grow up. If so, the folks involved (and it should be noted that the script here is by Peter Gaulke and Gerry Swallow, who aren't affiliated with Broken Lizard) needn't have bothered to make the effort.
The movie doesn't work as a frank comedy of the lengths a couple will go to when dealing with infertility. It also doesn't work as a bid to enter the Apatow Competition Sweepstakes that has resulted in what seem like hundreds of attempts at replicating the success of "Knocked Up." It doesn't work as ... well, you get the idea.
The picture's desirous-to-conceive couple are Audrey and Tommy (Olivia Munn and Paul Schneider), one of those early-thirties-cool-with-ultra-dirty-talk modern duos you see so often in today's rom-coms. After a replete-with-wash-your-mouth-out-banter anniversary dinner at which they resolve to conceive, they go at it lustily and fail. Tommy reacts to the news that his sperm is bereft with typically tiresome Gen X macho-movie-character bluster and, after an abortive flirtation with homeopathic remedies, he resolves to rob the sperm bank where he surreptitiously put in a bunch of deposits (to afford an engagement ring for Audrey, awww) back when his seed was valid, and enlists a bunch of his of course unbelievably crude drinking buddies (of whom Heffernan is the most prominent, and crude) and a tetchy south Asian "robbery expert" (Chandrasakher) to do the job.
While Munn is appealing, and perhaps will be considered more appealing by those impressed with her seeming affinity for you-kiss-your-mother-with-that-mouth dialogue, Schneider is an absolute wreck, delivering his one-liners with a clenched-brow intensity that suggests he thinks he's playing the one honest cop in a department full of bribe-taking sleazeballs. He isn't helped by the fact that the makeup staff on this film let him down badly: He's seen throughout sporting a five-o'clock shadow that gives him the aura of the "dud" in the commercials for the old board game Mystery Date.
In fact, this is one of the most technically inept movies I've seen in quite some time, making the just-released bigger-budgeted mess "The Watch" look as deftly edited as "The Little Foxes." In one scene, the belt Schneider's wearing around his waist to hold his wireless microphone rig is constantly visible through his shirt. For the opening anniversary dinner scene, Chandrasakher has the actors at a table that's in front of a wine rack, and he shoots the master shot with a lens that flattens out the background, so when he does over-the-shoulder cutaways for the dialogue scene, it feels like the camera is now where the wine rack was. And so on.
None of this would be noticeable in a funnier movie with more interesting characters. But the comedy only really begins to generate during scenes having little to do with the movie's thematic reason for being. Chandrasakher's feckless criminal mastermind is amusing enough to make one wish for this character's own gloss on "Big Deal on Madonna Street." But this isn't that, and what it finally is isn't worth much.
Glenn Kenny is chief film critic for MSN Movies. He was the chief film critic for Premiere magazine from 1998 to 2007. He contributes to various publications and websites, and blogs at http://somecamerunning.typepad.com. He lives in Brooklyn.