SXSW Film Review – The Babymakers
Maybe I’m in the minority, but I was pretty disappointed when Paul Schneider left Parks and Recreation. I enjoyed his character, and it felt like an abrupt end to his burgeoning relationship with Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler). So I was pleasantly surprised to find him as one of the leads in The Babymakers, from director Jay Chandrasekhar.
I am a fan of Chandrasekhar; he has been one of the most prolific comedy directors of the last decade. He is best known as the director of Super Troopers and is a member of the Broken Lizard comedy troupe, but has worked on everything from Arrested Development to Community and much, much more. Beyond his directorial talent, he is a funny actor with great timing (as you can see during any of the Broken Lizard movies). For The Babymakers, he teamed up with fellow Broken Lizard member Kevin Heffernan to adapt the script. It is because of the limited involvement of cast members and the decision to adapt a script as opposed to create one that this film should not be confused with Broken Lizard’s other work.
The story follows the couple Tommy (Paul Schneider) and Audrey (Olivia Munn), who, on their third anniversary, decide they want to go through with their plan to have a kid if they made it that long. Despite their best efforts, months go by and they are unable to conceive, at which point they discover that Tommy is “shooting blanks.” As their marriage begins to fall apart, Tommy puts together a plan to rob the sperm bank where he left a sample many years before, with the help of his best friend (Kevin Heffernan) and some other accomplices, including an Indian mobster played by Chandrasekhar. No surprise—things go hilariously wrong.
One of the most striking things about the movie is Paul Schneider. I’d been used to him playing restrained and awkward characters (Parks and Recreation; Lars and the Real Girl), but he really lets loose in The Babymakers. He curses up a storm; he does lots of physical comedy—it was fun to see him do something different. The bar was set very high for Olivia Munn to match. I’m a fan of hers, but her previous acting work left a lot to be desired (particularly on Perfect Couples). Here she largely plays the serious role, but she isn’t left a lot to work with, since this is really a buddy comedy. Her work does give me hope for her in the future, and I actually think a restrained Olivia Munn is better than an over the top one.
There are some great supporting actors present as well. I’m a huge Aisha Tyler fan, and while she doesn’t really stretch her range here, she is still funny as always. It is also great to see another cameo by Charlie Finn (he was the Dimpus Burger Guy in Super Troopers), and once again his scene is one of funniest in the movie. His timing is fantastic and he deserves many more opportunities than those he seems to receive.
The problem for me with this movie is that despite the great cast, it isn’t particularly interesting. Sure, there are lots of laughs, but most of them are earned through shock value. While the shocking and offbeat moments are entertaining, the underlying story is so simple and straightforward that it made it feel like they were trying too hard most of the time. I don’t know how the film will hold up to repeated viewing, but I expect it to be a lot like Austin Powers: really funny the first time and then pretty dull and clichéd thereafter. There isn’t anything particularly memorable about the film, and my favorite parts were when Kevin Heffernan and Jay Chandrasekhar were in it…which really just makes me want to see another Broken Lizard film. Considering their previous projects together, the whole premise feels a bit mundane. It is my understanding the film is loosely based on the true story of one of the writers, but it lacks the depth of something like 50/50, which has a comparable backstory. This is especially a problem here since while Schneider works well with Heffernan, the more engaging chemistry is clearly between Heffernan and Chandrasekhar.
I respect Chandrasekhar and Heffernan for their approach of making movies that they themselves would find funny, but to me it just feels like a waste of their talent. They are clearly elevating the material here that would otherwise feel like just a basic comedy, but it makes just wonder what they could potentially do if they were given something better to work with. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the storyline of this film is underwhelming, since it was written by Peter Gaulke & Gerry Swallow, who are responsible for such comedic gems as the Chris Klein incest comedy Say It Isn’t So and the Martin Lawrence medieval comedy Black Knight. Still, I actually wish I could say I disliked this movie more than I did. While there are a lot of things about it that are problems, the chemistry between Chandrasekhar and Heffernan is mostly able to overcome those. It is also nice to see Paul Schneider, and especially to see him do something different. That being said, I am much more excited about seeing what they all do next than I am in reliving their work here. They all deserve better.
Final Grade: C+