‘The Babymakers’ – laughter is in short supply
Directed by Jay Chandrasekhar
Written by Peter Gaulke and Gerry Swallow
In the final shot of The Babymakers, a toddler cries in agony and anguish, a feeling that will be shared by most people who subject themselves to this woefully unfunny exercise in stupidity. The best you can hope for is a light chuckle or snicker, though they may end up being pity laughs, as there are too many decent actors and actresses you’ll pity for being stranded in this loud, obnoxious farce. The premise—after a married couple fails to conceive a child, the husband decides to steal an old sperm sample of his so he can be the one who impregnates his wife—is ignored in favor of meandering, pointless gags and subplots.
Paul Schneider plays Tommy, the frustrated hopeful father whose sperm have become confused, thus making it difficult to get his wife, Audrey (Olivia Munn), pregnant. As he grows more and more desperate, Tommy’s best friend, Wade (Kevin Heffernan), suggests that he rob the sperm bank where he donated some samples a few years back. Though Tommy’s against the idea as well as Ron Jon (Jay Chandrasekhar, who also directed), a former bagman for the Indian mob who’s in charge of leading the heist, he eventually chooses to become a criminal so he can maintain his masculinity for his future family.
Let’s not mince words: The Babymakers isn’t funny. The cast is OK, but saddled with some truly unrealistic characters who sound like rejects from a shrill, trying-too-hard-to-be-edgy 90s-era sitcom. Schneider and Munn, strangely, don’t share a lot of screen time past the first act, making the foundation of their relationship and marriage shaky for the wrong reasons. They don’t have romantic chemistry, but because the script—credited to Peter Gaulke and Gerry Swallow—separates them for large chunks, it may be that they simply didn’t have enough time to generate any sparks. Also, Schneider barely has any connection with Heffernan, Wood Harris (formerly Avon Barksdale on The Wire, and boy, is he wasted), and Nat Faxon, the actors who play his friends. Though he’s looser than he was on Parks and Recreation, Schneider’s not that believable when forced to play manic, the note his character has to hit more often than not.
The writing is the real trouble spot, though. Most of the film’s crises, even when they’re not incredibly predictable, could be easily resolved by Tommy explaining things calmly and efficiently to Audrey. And yet, like every hacky sitcom character, he either sputters incoherently or flat-out refuses to tell the truth until the worst possible outcome has come to fruition. Also, the way the script handles the supporting female characters is truly baffling. Munn may be on the film’s poster, but Audrey is a glorified extra in many ways, popping up every now and then to get Tommy more frazzled about his potentially vanishing manhood. Audrey and her friends (including one played by Aisha Tyler, who’s more caustic and hilarious in five seconds of any episode of Archer than she is in her entire screen time in The Babymakers) get a few quick scenes, but they feel like filler. What’s more, some of the characters—male and female—are so poorly defined that we don’t know how or if they’re connected to Audrey and Tommy. The audience should, especially in a comedy, never ask questions like “Who is that person and why are they in this scene?”
One draw for some folks may be that The Babymakers reunites Chandrasekhar and Heffernan, two members of the Broken Lizard comedy group, responsible for Super Troopers and a few other cult movies. Their time on screen together is short, but more to the point, there’s nothing particularly special about the material they have. If you didn’t know the two had worked on projects in the past, you wouldn’t get a hint of it in this movie. And Chandrasekhar’s direction is both dull and amateurish, surprising considering how he’s directed episodes of various, well-respected single-camera TV comedies. Too frequently, he places the camera at mid-level, making the film feel oddly compressed.
If you don’t hold your money or time in high esteem, by all means, The Babymakers is for you. But laughter is in short supply, as a fairly capable cast chooses to emphasize volume over quality, crassness over wit, and idiocy over intelligence. No amount of mugging for the camera or half-hearted attempts at emotion can save this film. There may be an incisive and sardonically funny film about the troubles of conception in modern America, but it isn’t The Babymakers.
– Josh Spiegel