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Baby Mama (PG-13) **

Photo: K.C. Bailey
Photo: K.C. Bailey

By Connie Ogle, Miami Herald

If it had been created in the spirit of anarchy found in most episodes of 30 Rock or Saturday Night Live — i.e., written by Tina Fey instead of first-time director Michael McCullers, a co-writer on the Austin Powers sequels — Baby Mama might have been hilarious. Fey, who also wrote the terrific Mean Girls, seems to have plenty to say about women and their battles with modern life.

As it is, though, Baby Mama is just amusing enough to provoke a few chuckles and just short enough to keep you from glancing at your watch. Starring former SNL stars Fey (as successful corporate executive Kate, who wants a baby) and Amy Poehler (as Angie, the trashy surrogate Fey hires when she proves infertile), Baby Mama is a buddy movie with a fair amount of potential, full of jokes you can see coming a mile away about yuppie anxiety and redneck stupidity. Some are funny, such as the notion of Sigourney Weaver as the ridiculously fertile CEO of the surrogate agency. Others are not (speech impediments ceased being a clever joke about the time of Monty Python’s Life of Brian). Worse, some of the amusing bits — Angie desperate and unable to negotiate the childproof lock on the toilet, for example — have been shown exhaustively in the trailers and have lost their punch.

On paper, Fey and Poehler seem a perfect odd couple; they are consistently funny performers, and the idea of watching them play off each other is irresistible. On screen, however, hampered by a mediocre script, they never quite add up to remarkable. In fact the whole premise never lives up to its potential. I’m sure someone thought casting Steve Martin as a health-food magnate was a touch of genius, but no matter how popular you were back in 1978, you still have to do more than wear a long white ponytail to be funny.

Greg Kinnear actually does a nice job in his role as a smoothie-shop owner with whom Kate predictably falls in love, but the ease of the romance keeps Baby Mama too crowd-pleasing and less crazy than it should be. It’s impossible not to think of Poehler in her SNL guise as the one-legged dynamo Amber (‘I’m rockin’ one leg!”) — loud, wild, childish and completely over the top. Baby Mama could’ve used a little of that bad behavior.

Cast: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Greg Kinnear

Director/screenwriter: Michael McCullers

Producers: John Goldwyn, Lorne Michaels

A Universal Pictures release. Running time: 96 minutes. Crude and sexual humor, language, a drug reference.