MOVIE REVIEW- Grow your own: 'Baby Mama' a breath of stale air

a still from this week's filmIt's payback time for the ladies who had to sit through Forgetting Sarah Marshall last weekend. They can get even with Baby Mama, which may look to them like a date movie but, with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler starring, will be easier to sell to the guys as a "Weekend Update" movie.Steve WarrenYou could say the comedies are alike in their differences. Sarah Marshall, told from a man's point of view, has more surprises, mostly of the "Oh no he didn't!" variety, and a handful of really big laughs. Baby Mama, despite a more unusual premise, is totally predictable but will keep you chuckling more consistently. It's all about women, even though it was written and directed by a man, Michael McCullers.

Kate Holbrook (Fey) is 37. She wants to start raising a family, which she's put on hold while devoting herself to her career. As she explains, "Some women get pregnant. I get promotions." She works for a chain of natural food groceries, Round Earth Organic Markets, run by an unbilled Steve Martin in a ponytail and New Age attitude.

Having no time to develop a relationship with a man, Kate makes withdrawals from a sperm bank. When those checks bounce and a gynecologist tells her her chances of conceiving are one in a million, she looks into adoption and learns it can take five years for a single woman.

So it's on to surrogacy at a top-drawer agency run by Sigourney Weaver, who is remarkably fertile herself though past the usual childbearing age. (The jokes about her age are borderline vicious.) For $100,000 she finds Kate a "gestation assistant" who will hatch her egg.

Angie (Poehler) is the common-law wife of Carl (Dax Shepard). They will eventually be described as "white trash" for anyone slow to figure it out. Angie gets pregnant and everybody's happy– for five minutes. Then Angie leaves Carl and has nowhere to go but Kate's. This gives control freak Kate a chance to freak at her baby mama's bad habits and try to correct them.

There are a few plot twists involving the pregnancy but none so startling that they'll send expectant mothers into premature labor, and naturally Kate has to stumble on the nicest straight, single guy on the planet. Rob (Greg Kinnear) quit practicing law to open Super Fruity Smoothies.

Of course the female odd couple will bond, and of course Kate will bond with Rob another way. There's another "of course" or two, but at the next level of spoilerdom so we'll stop here.

Fey is improving but still isn't big enough for the big screen; Poehler adapts better. If you wait to see Baby Mama on cable or DVD that won't be a problem.

The strong supporting cast includes Maura Tierney as Kate's sister, Holland Taylor as their mother and Romany Malco as Kate's doorman, who becomes Angie's confidant and conscience.

As feelgood movies about surrogate motherhood go, Baby Mama is no Juno. Despite treading relatively fresh movie ground, it seems oddly familiar, a breath of stale air.

It was a bad sign for Baby Mama when The Return of Jezebel James, a sitcom about surrogacy, was cancelled after three episodes, even though Fox had nothing but reruns to replace it with. This movie should be gone from theaters in three weeks, leaving chuckling chicks to tell their friends to watch for it on DVD.