Movie Review: The Babymakers
August 8, 2012
For a no brainer of a raunchy and rowdy good time any time of the day or night, “Beerfest” is always a winner, although perhaps more so now that it’s on DVD. Given that, it stands to reason that the same Broken Lizard team delivering that frothy fun would have a uniquely entertaining take on a story about sperm banks and a hot topics in films of late, fertility and impending fatherhood. Sadly, what I am now writing pains me to no end as but for a few shining moments that give birth to some real “funny”, THE BABYMAKERS is immotile in story and execution.
Tommy and Audrey are your upwardly mobile young couple. Seemingly happily married, they live in a very nice house in a very nice neighborhood and have very nice perks with furniture, art, cars, etc. Of course, Tommy still has his very collegiate frat house mentality group of friends, not to mention all of them suffering with the “Peter Pan Syndrome”, i.e., they never grow up . What the couple doesn’t have though are children, something that Audrey wants very badly. But is Tommy ready to be a father?
Ultimately succumbing to the wily wills of Audrey, Tommy dives into the practice of getting her pregnant head first, feet first, anywhere, anytime, anyhow. Unfortunately, despite their best efforts, Audrey never gets pregnant. Confident that he isn’t the problem, especially in light of his past money making efforts selling his “quality” sperm to a sperm bank to buy Audrey’s engagement ring, Tommy agrees to undergo testing to prove his manhood. Imagine his surprise when he learns that he is, in fact, the problem. He’s “shooting blanks” or as he likes to call it, his sperm are just “confused”. With Audrey depressed and Tommy’s masculinity challenged, there’s got to be a solution to their problem. And there is. Go back to the sperm bank to which he donated and get his sperm back. But there’s another problem. There’s only one sample left and it’s already been bought, set to be claimed within days. That leaves Tommy only one option - a sperm bank heist.
Calling on best friends Wade and Zig-Zag, the boys realize they’re gonna need some “professional” help for the heist and hire local Indian mobster Ron Jon to lead the team. Can this band of misfits pull of the slickest heist of the century?
Paul Schneider and Olivia Munn head the cast (at least in the credits) as Tommy and Audrey. Their pairing, however, is the casting catastrophe from hell as they have ZERO chemistry, and I do mean ZERO. A cardboard cut-out of Munn would have been more engaging. There is no connection to every make one believe that they are a couple, let alone a 5-year married couple. Adding to the disbelief of their joint performance are shortfalls in the story. They live in a nice house, but we never get any sense that they "do" anything in terms of work...or that they have gotten past a partying high school and frat house college mentality. Munn is flat in her acting (although one can't help noticing that the wardrobe and camera are designed to focus on her non-moving breasts at every possible moment). There is no sincerity in her dialogue delivery, no genuine interest in Schneider's Tommy, and the impression that she creates is not one of wanting a baby and all the responsibility, but rather because it sounds like a fun thing to do because other people are doing it. Simply blah performance. Olivia Munn's Audrey is the one-night stand that never went home.
And then we have Schneider who feels like he is straining with all his might, forcing himself to be funny with the dialogue. It just falls flat - especially when going toe-to-toe with Munn. He does much better against Heffernan. But then again, Heffernan is doing the heavy comedic lifting and winning. Schneider just feels wimpy simpy and unappealing - which I find very surprising given his recent dramatic performances in “Flowers of War” and “Beloved”, which are superb. Hard to believe it's even the same man here. He does excel, however, with the physical comedic aspects of the character where he just nails it in spades!
The huge shining light in THE BABYMAKERS is Kevin Heffernan. Always a guaranteed “like” in every project (but for the big screen “The Dukes of Hazzard” remake), he screams funny, funny, funny. As Wade, his energy and exuberance fuel not only the hair-brained heist, but the film as a whole. Personally, I think the film would work better if it were his sperm in question which would then add new levels of character, emotion and comedy to the mix. One downfall to his performance, however, and I attribute it to editing and Chandrasekhar's directing, is one slippery slope of semen silliness. The performance itself, and this one scene in general, is by far the best and funniest in the film, BUT rather than be left alone for the audience to enjoy the slapstick comedy of the moment, Chandrasekhar takes exaggeration to the Nth degree and just destroys the scenic comedy and Heffernan’s slippery antics by not letting the joke be appreciated, and instead goes into overdrive with a relooping of the scene four more times like a record that's skipping with the needle stuck in one place.
As Zig-Zag, Nat Faxon provides the still collegiately themed stoner friend hijinks he is known for but does so with a great kindness and sweetness that is a perfectly complimentary balance to the energy of Heffernan. Nice bit of casting chemistry with Heffernan and Faxon. On the female side, thank goodness for Aisha Tyler who, as Audrey’s friend Karen, adds a grounded unemotional perspective to everything. Each line of dialogue is delivered very matter-of-factly and casually which is refreshing when we look at what happens with the rest of the cast and their performances (outside of Heffernan, Faxon and Tyler).
What was Jay Chandrasekhar thinking with his own performance as the character of Ron Jon (and with the movie as a whole)? Too much, too over the top, too ridiculous, too thick an accent to go beyond parody and WAAAAYYYY too loud. It is obvious that he was going for a slapstickesque raunchy patented style for which he is well known, but then he went into overdrive and overkill on multiple levels, starting with his performance as Ron Jon and then letting it seep into the rest of the film (like the sperm on the floor - a guy slips and slides once is funny but three times just says "I don't know what else to put here to draw out the heist, so let's just keep using this.)
Written by Peter Gaulke and Gerry Swallow, and directed by Jay Chandrasekhar, THE BABYMAKERS, is a funny and original premise. Sure, we’ve seen quite a few fertility films of late, and bank heist films are a cornerstone in the history of cinema, but we’ve never seen a sperm bank heist. The potential for laughs is enormous. Sadly, though, the potential is unrealized and far outweighs the final product or its execution. While a set-up for the heist is necessary, nothing on screen merits the approximate 45 minutes it takes to get to the heist itself, thus causing the comedy to suffer with funny dialogue only hitting its mark maybe 1 out of 10 times. And then the heist itself is a mish mash of improv gone wrong. Disappointing as well is the shear volume of raunch and masturbation jokes that are beyond overkill. Listening to them drone on is enough to put the kibosh on anyone’s romantic tendencies. (So bad, in fact, this could explain why Tommy’s sperm are confused or blank - they’ve gone into hiding to avoid this film.) Editing also falls short, undoubtedly due to Chandrasekhar's direction as he lets the shot stay on jokes far too long, like a comedian on stage waiting for a laugh.....only the laughs aren't coming. A good stand-up comic knows if the laugh isn't there before you finish the joke, it's never coming and move on. With much of THE BABYMAKERS, the laughs aren't there and you just need to move on. Chandrasekhar doesn't. It's as if he figures if he holds the shot long enough the audience will eventually decide to laugh or the scene will get funny. It doesn't.
The story itself is a prime example of where a serious subject matter can be viewed comically, but a director has to have a script that has more legs to it in order to give it a solid footing and less funny gag + unfunny gag + unfunny gag+ unfunny gag+ funny gag. And a director has to know when funny isn't funny and either cut it from the film, reshoot, or move on.
Chandrasekhar looks at THE BABYMAKERS as a step up, moving into more mature subject matter. While the subject matter may be more mature, the presentation of it is not. I really guffawed and laughed with “Beerfest”which celebrated raunchy, collegiate male mentality hijinks, but which kept moving along at a funny clip. Sadly, with THE BABYMAKERS, things are just the opposite. Like Tommy's confused sperm, THE BABYMAKERS just goes in circles with no real direction before dying a lonely unfunny death.
Tommy - Paul Schneider
Audrey - Olivia Munn
Wade - Kevin Heffernan
Zig-Zag - Nat Faxon
Karen - Aisha Tyler
Ron Jon - Jay Chandrasekhar
Directed by Jay Chandrasekhar. Written by Peter Gaulke and Gerry Swallow.