SXSW 2012: THE BABYMAKERS Review

     March 10, 2012

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The Babymakers is a film I would have made when I was thirteen, and that is not a compliment.  Jay Chandrasekhar‘s comedy occasionally appeals to one’s guilty pleasure adolescent side, but it lacks the sophistication to bring out big laughs from its constant stream of semen jokes.  The film does get some hilarity out of some of the cum gags, but a comedy cannot subsist on jizz jokes alone, and when it’s not spraying its wad all over predictable pay-offs, The Babymakers moves into creepy, exploitative territory with lead actress Olivia MunnPaul Schneider gets to shine in a lead performance and the supporting cast gets in some great moments, but they’re not enough to overcome the obvious jokes, a weak script, and even weaker pacing.

Tommy (Schneider) and his wife Audrey (Munn) are trying to get pregnant, but it’s not happening.  Tommy refuses to believe that his sperm could be the problem, and he’s confident his boys can swim since he (unbeknownst to Audrey) donated to a sperm bank five years earlier.  The bank has already promised his last sample to a gay couple, but Paul is determined to break in and steal it before the insemination procedure.  Paul’s friend (Kevin Heffernan) hooks him with a strange fellow who previously worked heists for the Indian mafia (Chandrasekhar), and along with their dim-witted friend Zig Zog (Nat Faxon), the quartet decide to make a go of the strange heist.

It takes an hour to get to the strange heist.  The movie spends far too much time with Paul and his deep-seated denial to the point where we begin to think this is a character-driven comedy without a central narrative.  The Babymakers makes bizarre detours that obviously should have been left on the cutting room floor.  When Paul visits with the gay couple to convince them to let him have his sperm back, the scene’s only function is to try and convince the audience that Paul deserves to rob another couple of their child.  The scene never comes back in any meaningful way, and it doesn’t absolve Paul of his theft.  An even creepier add-on are scenes where Paul tries to reach orgasm by imagining Audrey in porn-like scenarios, which seem designed to exploit Olivia Munn’s sex appeal rather than provide any jokes.

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But even when it’s trying to get laughs, The Babymakers struggles to find any gems.  In my introduction, I purposely used phrases like “constant stream”, “spraying its wad”, and “cum gags” to illustrate lazy attempts at laugh lines.  Imagine those for an hour-and-a-half and you’ll have a sense of how quickly screenwriters Peter Gaulke and Gerry Swallow ran dry on trying to draw from the jizz well.  Even though The Babymakers isn’t a Broken Lizard film (Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, and Erik Stolhanske weren’t involved), and it has a much weaker script than the group’s movies, Chandrasekhar still bears the responsibility of being unable to finesse to the comedy into a finer form.

However, he does bring a great performance, and Chandresekhar, along with his male co-stars, raise the comedy to the point where they can at least make the juvenile humor work some of the time.  Schneider has been a wonderful presence in his previous films, and he always exudes responsibility even when faced with ludicrous situations.  Schneider’s comic talents make him the strongest part of the movie, and the actor’s air of responsibility makes Paul seem above his reckless, selfish, and duplicitous actions.    Even when we see Paul getting hit in the nuts, he’s responsibly getting hit in the nuts.   The rest of the supporting cast provides some solid back-up, but we’ve seen Heffernan, Chandresekhar, and Faxon do better.

Much like the “confused sperm” of its lead character, The Babymakers doesn’t seem to have much of an idea on how to get to where it needs to go.  The film lacks the comic dexterity to deliver consistent laughs along the way, and to stop beating the same jokes to death.  Any great screenwriting class will teach you that jism is funny.  They’ll also tell you that if you’re going to make a heist movie, you should stop jerking around with weak jerk-off jokes and get to the heist.

Rating: C

For all of our SXSW 2012 coverage, click here.  Here are the links to all of my SXSW 2012 reviews thus far:

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