'Baby Mama' so bad, it might ruin Tina Fey's reputation

Ed Symkus

Is it possible that Tina Fey can tarnish her sparkling comic reputation with one rotten movie?

That may be the only interesting thing about the regrettable “Baby Mama,” a movie so bad that Fey would be wise to hope it disappears quietly from movie theaters asap so that we can all get back to adoring her work — in front of the camera, and behind it — on “30 Rock.”

Why would she choose this dog of a movie for her first starring role? The supposedly comic subject isn’t very funny: infertile single woman is desperate for a child, doesn’t want to wait for adoption and goes the surrogate mother route.

Her character is supposed to be a sharp businesswoman, but her decisions are just so dumb.

Her cast-mates have been allowed to shamelessly overact: Amy Poehler, as the surrogate, starts off appearing stupid, but eventually shows a mean-spirited side. She’s a heartless, conniving ne’er-do-well who’s only in it for the money. Dax Shepard, as her common law husband, simply repeats the mindless role he played in “Idiocracy.” (He was funny in that; here, he’s just creepy). Romany Malco, who was so good in “The 40 Year Old Virgin,” plays Oscar the doorman, and is content to let his eyes bug out for laughs. I’m not even going to bother with the unsavory — and unfunny — character played by Sigourney Weaver.

The title refers to a woman who gets paid to have another woman’s child. Which is how Fey’s Kate meets Poehler’s Angie, who shares an ongoing argumentative relationship with Shepard’s Carl. Angie and Carl are fine, upstanding examples of white trash. It’s ludicrous to believe that Kate would choose Angie to bring her child into the world.

But before you can say “bun in the oven,” there go Kate’s fertilized eggs into Angie’s womb, after which the script introduces every bad habit a pregnant woman could have, from drinking to smoking to eating junk food, each one of them a regular part of Angie’s life. This is not … exactly … funny.

The filmmakers try to temper all of this with cute little segments, most of them revolving around Kate’s family life. It doesn’t work. Her mom (Holland Taylor) is a busybody who loves to annoy Kate. Her sister (Maura Tierney) has kids galore, but has no control over them. She thinks it’s adorable that her 4-year-old daughter is demanding her own cell phone.

But the film keeps coming back to the relationship developing between Kate and Angie (who has decided to move in to Kate’s apartment and wreck the joint). It’s in these scenes that the term “bathroom humor” literally comes alive, and it must have been as embarrassing to act out as it is to watch.

The film gets some laughs on the subject of vegans versus carnivores, and the ridiculous names that some parents give their children. And the pointed (but not mean-spirited) digs aimed at wiccans all hit the mark. But it’s not funny to watch the actors stand around as if the director has forgotten to tell them what to do — an odd phenomenon that happens at the end of many scenes.

Two performances do manage to get by unscathed. Greg Kinnear does his usual vanilla thing, playing as a nice guy who might or might not become a romantic interest for Kate. And Steve Martin is terrific as the pompous owner of a chain of health food stores, who likes to refer to himself as “a great man who does many great things.”

The movie seems to leave viewers with the reckless message that it’s OK to go out and have unprotected sex with a total stranger. At moments like that, “Baby Mama” manages an unfortunate one-two punch: Not only is it unfunny, it actually makes you angry.