Sunday, August 5, 2012

Labored "Babymakers" mostly shoots blanks

The Babymakers (2012)
98 min., rated R.
Hand it to Broken Lizard comedy trouper Jay Chandrasekhar to make a sperm-comedy that's pretty barren of a high laugh count. He and his boys have made hilariously dopey, see-what-sticks larks (2001's "Super Troopers" and 2006's "Beerfest"), but his latest effort, which technically isn't branded a Broken Lizard comedy, is still an uninspired kick to the groin. Uneven and slack, "The Babymakers" seems stuck between a salty-and-hearty, Judd Apatow-y domestic comedy and an official Broken Lizards farce, as the pseudo feel-good sentiments and arrested-male antics never really gel. It isn't outright terrible, but there isn't enough to push it above bland mediocrity. 

Audrey (Olivia Munn) and Tommy (Paul Schneider) have been married for three years and keep trying to conceive a baby. But when he's told his little soldiers are lazy (even though he earned eighty bucks a pop for his numerous deposits at a sperm bank years before), Tommy grows desperate enough to recruit his buddies (Wood Harris, Kevin Heffernan, Nat Faxon), entlist an Indian mafioso (Chandrasekhar), and rob the sperm bank to steal back his frozen test tube of man juice. Hilarity should ensue, right?

Having taken his reigns to TV, director Chandrasekhar makes his most polished and technically competent film to date, but the material he's working with is sophomoric at best. Even when the film builds up enough good will through the easy likability of its two leads, Peter Gaulke and Gerry Swallow's (2006's "Ice Age: Meltdown") script sacrifices its characters for tired, forced gags and annoying plot contrivances. The film must want us to root for this couple but fleshes them out with spiky interplay and that's it. What are their jobs? When do they even work? Do Audrey and Tommy have any other hobbies besides making babies? None of that matters when you can have a character slipping and sliding on a floor of semen. 

Despite a stray laugh every fifteen minutes or longer, labored comic gags are set up, only for the punchlines to be lopped off. Many don't just fail to earn intended laughs but strain to dumb down the characters, too. For instance, this is the kind of movie where a character watches porn and ends up fumbling with the TV remote and increasing the volume, without any idea of how to turn it off. That's the punchline. When Tommy tracks down the recipients of his sperm, it's the setup for a gay-panic joke that never goes anywhere. Finally, adoption becomes an option for Audrey and Tommy when one of Audrey's girlfriends (Collette Wolfe) shows off her Asian baby named Jackie Chan (get it?). 

Munn and Schneider are likable and appealing performers, but as often as they smile and have pretend-sex with one another, there's never any chemistry that would suggest they're married or in love. On their own, Munn is a stunning exotic beauty and a fine comedian, but here, she's mostly misused. In a role that Ben Stiller might've taken, Schneider has a hapless everyman quality that's welcome in a funnier project. Even the interaction between Audrey and her gal pals looks as if the actresses hadn't met before shooting; Aisha Tyler, Constance Zimmer, and Lindsey Kraft are all comically sharp, but these women never mesh as friends. But when Faxon and Broken Lizard members Heffernan and Chandrasekhar are involved, one wonders if the whole affair would've worked better with just the Broken Lizard gang.

Munn and Schneider brighten the charmless material as much as they can, but "The Babymakers" is as lazy as the male protagonist's swimmers. What more is there to say about this misfire, except it's pretty depressing to watch funny, talented people make a movie that's beneath all of them.

Grade:  C - 

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