August 03, 2012

Babymakers, The

star

A movie review by James Berardinelli



Babymakers, The

COMEDY:

United States, 2012

U.S. Release Date:

2012-08-03

Running Length:

1:38

MPAA Classification:

R (Sexual Content, Profanity, Nudity)

Theatrical Aspect Ratio:

1.85:1

Cast:

Paul Schneider, Olivia Munn, Kevin Heffernan, Wood Harris, Nat Faxon, Aisha Tyler

Director:

Jay Chandrasekhar

Screenplay:

Peter Gaulke, Gerry Swallow

Cinematography:

Frank G. DeMarco

U.S. Distributor:

Millennium Entertainment

Subtitles:

none


Two elements comprise a comedy: content and composition. The first relates to what the joke is about; the second refers to how the joke is told. Good humor can be ruined by bad composition - think of someone who tells a "funny story" but messes up some detail or can't deliver the punch line. ("No, wait, that's not it...") The Babymakers' content is sperm. Those microscopic swimming troublemakers provide the sum and substance of the threadbare plot. You may find sperm jokes hilarious, but it's doubtful you'll find them hilarious in The Babymakers, which has serious composition problems. I'm not sure whether much of what the filmmakers have to offer would have tickled my funny bone if it had been better handled, but the way it's mangled means the sole function served by this motion picture is to illustrate how not to frame jokes in movies.

As has become the norm in raunchy comedies, it's not enough to gross out the audience with explosions of bad taste. No, director Jay Chandrasekhar and writers Peter Gaulke and Gerry Swallow want to do more than soak their audience in sperm. They want their characters to have heart. They want us to care about the central relationship. For a few times in the first fifteen minutes, they get close. But, as it becomes apparent that The Babymakers isn't just a bad comedy but a very bad comedy, the characters become props for an increasingly series of unfunny gags and pratfalls. We become more aware of gonads than heart.

I feel sorry for Olivia Munn (who's much better in a smaller role in Magic Mike) and Paul Schneider (who bears a distracting resemblance to Roger Federer), although I shouldn't since both hopefully knew what they were getting into beforehand and received their paychecks. Still, seeing actors of any caliber going through the motions in a disaster like this is disheartening even if it's just for the paycheck. One wonders what they were thinking. Did they believe they were making the next The Hangover or did they realize from the start that this was a misfire?

Audrey (Munn) and Tommy (Schneider) are a happily married couple whose union lacks only one thing: a baby. So, after reaching an agreement that this is something they both want, they get things underway. At first, they enjoy the "trying to get pregnant" part (a lackluster montage of sex scenes) but, after a while, it becomes a chore and an obligation (like watching this movie). Something is wrong and, after a checkup that involves the obligatory masturbation-in-the-fertility-clinic scene, the doctor has a verdict: Tommy's sperm look "drunk." He's confused about his low sperm count because, in the past, he made donations to a sperm bank and his swimmers were deemed to be perfectly energetic. Some kind of trauma, presumably related to the kind of groin accidents that occur frequently in comedies, has rendered Tommy unable to reproduce. But he has an idea: steal back the last remaining batch of his sperm from the sperm bank. Unfortunately, his nitwit accomplices are as good at theft as Michael Bay is at understatement. Meanwhile, Audrey is pissed off because apparently Tommy has numerous offspring wandering the planet, but she's not the mother of any of them.

The director, Jay Chandrasekhar, is probably best known for his association with Broken Lizard. For purposes of putting The Babymakers into its proper perspective, it's worth remembering that he directed the big screen version of The Dukes of Hazzard. The Babymakers is a better movie, but why split hairs? I've seen less sperm and better storytelling in certain porn movies, and those productions have fringe benefits The Babymakers cannot begin to offer.

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