Tina Fey's so hot right now that celebraticians - those who calibrate star heat - are already talking backlash. It would serve her right, too, since she's a woman who dares to be both funny and pretty, and we all know where that can lead. Actually, we don't know, because it doesn't happen very often, which may be why some of us have invested so much in Fey. She doesn't just act funny, she writes funny, she produces funny. After serving as head writer and Weekend Update co-anchor on Saturday Night Live, Fey launched the hilarious 30 Rock, where she also stars as Liz Lemon, a Mary Tyler Moore for the aughts. Liz is a little less sure of herself than the Marian the Librarian who used to shoot from the hip on Weekend Update. But - and I mean this in the best way possible - she sure has a mouth on her.
I'd like to have heard more out of that mouth in Baby Mama, where Fey plays Kate Holbrook, a 37-year-old single career woman who, in her own words, "got promoted while other women got pregnant." Never mind that some women do manage to do both, Kate's suddenly being driven crazy by the sound of her biological clock ticking away. And when she learns that her chances of conceiving a child are one in a million and that it could be five years before the adoption process is completed, she enters the wild and wacky world of surrogacy. This isn't exactly a hot topic, but it isn't exactly a stale one either, and you might expect someone like Fey to leave her teeth marks all over it. But writer-director (and SNL alumnus) Michael McCullers prefers to gum it to death. Just when you think the movie's going to cut loose and make some noise, he sticks a pacifier in its mouth.
The live wire is Amy Poehler, who plays Angie, a woman from the wrong side of the tracks with a womb to spare. It's hard to say where exactly the tracks are these days, but Angie has been conceived as a hillbilly from South Philly. She sticks her wadded-up gum underneath Kate's coffee table and completely loses it when a guy gets nailed in the crotch by a baseball on America's Funniest Home Videos. Kate, on the other hand, is more of a bobo-by-way-of-Main-Line-Philly kind of gal. She works for a Whole Foods-like corporation where the boss, a New Age nutcase played by Steve Martin in the world's longest ponytail, touches foreheads with his employees to impart wisdom. And so we have a class struggle on our hands, which ends up being more of what Baby Mama is about than babies or mamas. Can Kate and Angie, like their near-namesakes, Kate and Allie, learn how to live together?
They wouldn't have to were it not for a plot contrivance that has Angie ditching her no-good boyfriend and moving in with Kate. Meanwhile, Kate has acquired an all-good boyfriend of her own, played by Greg Kinnear. Hopefully, everybody will wind up with the living arrangement that's right for them, but will there be some laughs along the way? Yes, there are some. But you can't help feeling that there were more where those came from if only the movie was willing to go after them. Fey seems uncomfortable at times, as if she's not used to walking in heels. And Poehler's capable of a lot more than what she's been asked to do here. These two made fake-network-TV history when they co-anchored Weekend Update. (Hey, why not Katie Couric and Diane Sawyer?) But where's that sass? That snark? Do you really need to lose your edge just because you're having a baby?