by Zach Blaesi
Babies and strap-ons. The two rarely come up in the same conversation, but the juxtaposition somehow makes sense in the opening scene of “The Babymakers.” Tommy (Paul Schneider) and Audrey (Olivia Munn) are celebrating their third year anniversary on a dinner date. When Audrey ambiguously hints at their anniversary vow to start a family, Tommy slyly recalls an anniversary vow of a different sort—to try anal. To his surprise, Audrey is totally up for it. She just needs to buy something first—a strap-on. The two share a laugh, but they are serious about bringing their relationship to the next level by starting a family.
Directed by Jay Chandrasekhar (“Super Troopers”), “The Babymakers” kicks off with a scene that sets the comedic tone for the rest of the film, and it poses the film’s central problem: Tommy, the couple soon finds, is infertile. Fortunately for Tommy, he was once a sperm donor. Now if only he could get some of that stuff back.
A comedy like this relies upon the believability of its characters, the chemistry of its leads, and the effectiveness of its situational humor. From this perspective, while “The Babymakers” has many laugh-out-loud funny moments, it remains hollow.
Narratively, the fatal flaw of “The Babymakers”exists within its superficial dramatic structure. We never learn much about Tommy and Audrey, nor do we understand much about their relationship. Their decision to start a family begins with the very first scene, and we are expected to believe this decision on the basis of genre clichés and social norms. In reality, their decision seems stilted and arbitrary, imposed upon them by the script for the purpose of setting up a number of comedic situations. Those comedic situations may be funny, but with no larger drama behind them, the film fails to make a real impact.
Simply put, for the film to make an impact, the viewer needs to genuinely believe that Tommy and Audrey are desperate to start a family together, and this is something the film fails to achieve. However, this problem may also share its origin with the lack of chemistry between the two leads. Neither Munn nor Schneider are offered much by the script, and the two never work well together.
The script also fails to sustain the central conflict. When Audrey decides to adopt a child, the film could just end there, but that wouldn’t fit the overall story, so the film finds preposterous ways to keep the plot dragging onward.
Though the overall story is lacking in authenticity, many viewers will still appreciate the film for its laughs. From this perspective, “The Babymakers” is at its funniest when its dialogue isn’t trying so hard. There are many contrived lines that fall completely flat. By contrast, the film often succeeds in its humor when it sets up small dramatic situations between its characters and follows them to their absurd conclusions. One of these situations involves a narcissistic gay man’s offer to trade Tommy his old sperm in exchange for sex. “Fuck or be fucked,” Tommy’s best friend, Wade, later puts it.
The rest of these situations occur when Jay Chandrasekhar is on screen. He plays an immigrated Indian criminal, Ron Jon, who was rumored to have a role in the Indian mafia. When all other options fail (except for gay sex or adoption), Tommy and his friends enlist Ron Jon to help them rob a bank—a sperm bank, that is. The comedy that follows from these various situations probably wouldn’t work if Chandrasekhar didn’t play this character with a level of earnestness. Despite layers of goofiness, this character somehow seems real.
Formally, there isn’t too much going on here. The film is shot as one would expect, and while I haven’t seen Chandrasekhar’s previous films, it is hard to pinpoint any directorial flair here. The film is much more dialogue-dependent than cinematic, which is typical for the genre, but no fresh approaches to familiar content stand out in memory. However, the often stylized editing—with its occasional use of wipes and split-screen—adds a dimension of energy to the film that otherwise wouldn’t exist.
Not surprisingly, “The Babymakers” doesn’t say anything interesting about marriage or procreation. Tommy and Audrey decide to have children just because, and Tommy risks it all just so his kids can share his genes. By the end, we don’t really care which characters have children and how or why they have them. But for many, the juxtaposition of babies and strap-ons in the same conversation will be enough to make it through the movie.
Zach Blaesi is a contributing writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.