'Baby Mama' Brings Funny to Full Term

The term "chick flick" generally refers to sappy, simplistic and altogether missable movies.

So we won't saddle the amusing and enjoyable "Baby Mama" with that unfortunate moniker. Besides, this female-bonding comedy, which also skewers the lucrative baby-products industry, probably will appeal to both sexes. Don't be put off by the uninspired commercials and skit-like movie trailer. This is a charming light comedy, enhanced by the chemistry between "SNL" mates Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.

Though some elements will bring to mind "The Odd Couple," "Parenthood" and "Baby Boom" (and even a seeming homage to Annie Hall with a funny scene in an organic food restaurant), the subject -- surrogate motherhood -- is new and fresh. And though the humor is not exactly edgy, there are plenty of laughs.

Fey plays Kate, a successful career woman who, at 37, is told she has a one-in-a-million chance of bearing a child. A powerful case of baby lust has overtaken her, so she upends her ordered life and hires a surrogate mom named Angie (Poehler). She has few career prospects, to put it kindly, and lives with her lowlife common-law husband (Dax Shepard) in a slovenly apartment. Despite their differences, the women initially hit it off.

When Angie comes to stay unexpectedly in Kate's nicely appointed home, however, the "Odd Couple" features come into focus. Angie thinks nothing of sticking her old chewing gum under Kate's expensive coffee table and finds an unusual use for the bathroom sink.

Some of the better moments centering on their domestic situation involve interactions with Kate's street-wise doorman, Oscar, well played by Romany Malco (The 40-Year-Old Virgin).

Kate is determined to make her home as baby-friendly as possible. She reads all the child-care books and buys the latest safety gizmos. But Angie prefers to throw her enthusiasm into playing a karaoke video game, dancing at clubs and gorging on junk food. It's a lifestyle tug-of-war with an unborn child caught in the middle.

Veteran comic actors in the ensemble add an element of surprise. Sigourney Weaver is funny as a savvy businesswoman who sees the surrogate parenting business as fertile ground. Steve Martin is hilarious as Kate's boss, who rewards his employees with five minutes of uninterrupted gazing into his eyes.

Yes, the film doesn't offer many surprises and grows soft and predictable by its conclusion. But it does avoid the sappy sentimentality of the genre. The movie -- and its lead actresses -- charms us more than we might expect.

Though the competition hasn't exactly been stiff, Fey and Poehler may well be the best female comedy duo since Lucy and Ethel.

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