On one hand, Tina Fey starring in a movie she didn’t write indicates that she’s achieved full-on star status. Her presence alone can apparently make a film profitable, judging by the fact that Baby Mama took the top spot at the box office on its opening weekend. This is a good thing: Fey is smart, talented, and the sexiest thing in glasses this side of a James Bond nuclear physicist. However, it seems Fey’s fame also means that she can appear in projects that lack her signature humor. She’s a writer foremost: Her script for Mean Girls managed to make Lindsay Lohan appealing, and her TV show, 30 Rock, picked up an Emmy last year.
In a strange way, it’s the success of 30 Rock that renders Baby Mama dissatisfying. Both works feature Fey as the harried and unmarried protagonist, balancing personal fulfillment with professional success. Baby Mama does it in such a generic way that one can’t help think other mid-thirties actresses could have handled the role. That’s not calling Baby Mama stillborn, however. Amy Poehler-reuniting with Fey for the first time since they shined together on Saturday Night Live-totally brings it, as her character might say, playing the woman Fey pays to be her surrogate womb. Baby Mama is ultimately a funny movie, just not the laugh machine one might expect.
Think of it as 30 Rock fanfiction, wherein someone lacking a keen wit concocts a scenario in which Fey’s character decides to have a baby, finds out she has an inhospitably T-shaped uterus, and consequently must seek the help of some other-side-of-the-tracks loan uterus. Like Mean Girls, Baby Mama features a handful of other SNL performers-Will Forte, Fred Armisen, Siobhan Fallon, and even Steve Martin-in an effort to inject more humor into the rather complicated ensuing action.
But make no mistake, this is a movie featuring Tina Fey, not a Tina Fey movie. Writer and director Michael McCullers is best known for his involvement in the Austin Powers movies, not the kind of smart comedy Fey writes. End result: Tina Fey Lite, and not Mean Girls 2.