I should have taken it as a bad omen that beer and pizza were served at the press screening of The Babymakers. Sate the audience members with food, get them a little drunk, and they’re much more likely to cave into the film’s overbearing goofiness. That must have been what director/co-star Jay Chandrasekhar was thinking before and during his live introduction of the film, which essentially amounted to fifteen seconds of thanking us for being there and promising a movie we would like. Standing next to him with a can of Bud Light in his hand was his co-star Kevin Heffernan, who essentially echoed Chandrasekhar’s words while adding that drinking would enliven the experience. Give him some credit – at least he had to courage to say that out loud. In the interest of full disclosure, I allowed myself one beer and two slices of pizza, one cheese and one pepperoni.
For most people, myself included, a single beer isn’t enough to generate even a light buzz. This suited me find, because I needed a clear head in order to process the film. I didn’t mingle with the other critics/guests during the pizza party, but I did make note of the fact that no one took more than a second can, so I suspect they too wanted a lucid viewing experience. Most telling to me was the reaction during the film. Yes, there was laughter, but it was neither uproarious nor constant, and I noticed that there were several obvious verbal and physical gags that generated no laughs at all. When it was over, there was some polite applauding, but at no point did the screening room reverberate with enthusiastic cheers. So it appears that this movie isn’t as good as Chandrasekhar thinks it is, and that his only course of action is offering audiences a surefire way to make it only seem funnier.
The Babymakers is another unfortunate example of a decent premise mired by poor execution. What could have been a witty, observant human comedy was instead turned into a vulgar, juvenile gag fest. It involves, as the title makes perfectly clear, a lot of crude references to genitalia, sex, masturbation, conception, and semen, the latter prominently featured in a scene where Heffernan knocks over canisters of sample-filled test tubes. The slippery contents spill all over the floor, and because he’s slathered in the stuff, he finds that he can’t stand up or keep his balance. A scene like this is a waste of humor. It would have been better spent on the ups and downs of trying to get pregnant, the prospect of parenthood, and dealing with the shame of malfunctioning equipment. In other words, it would have been better spent on characters and situations that were in some way grounded in reality.
Taking place in Los Angeles, we meet a man named Tommy (Paul Schneider), who finally agrees with his wife, Audrey (Olivia Munn), that it’s time for them to have a baby. An explicit montage shows nine months worth of unsuccessful pregnancy attempts, and when word gets out, everyone and their uncle comes to Tommy with fertility advice. Tommy doesn’t believe that he’s the one with the malfunctioning body; unbeknownst to Audrey, he paid for her wedding ring several years earlier with the money he earned donating to a local sperm bank. Obviously, his donations wouldn’t have been accepted had he been shooting blanks. But a visit to a fertility doctor makes it clear that, since that time, his sperm count has lowered. Facing a life without a child, his only option is to return to the sperm bank and buy back his donations.
But as fate would have it, all but one has been used. Complicating matters further, the one that remains in cold storage has been sold to a gay couple, who Tommy unsuccessfully tries to reason with. Desperate, he turns to his friends, Wade (Heffernan) and the perpetually wonky Zig-Zag (Nat Faxon), and they all decide that they will break into the sperm bank and steal the last of Tommy’s samples. Hired to mastermind the heist is a flagrant walking stereotype named Ron Jon (Chandrasekhar), whose claims of once being affiliated with the Indian mafia are dubious at best. He initially envisions an elaborate robbery in multi-panel views a la modern-day spy thrillers, but he instantaneously revises his plan when he’s reminded that he can simply pick the lock of the back door.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a comedy if things didn’t go wrong, and boy, do things go wrong. There’s a subplot involving a series of nude photos of Wade’s current girlfriend (and Tommy’s ex-girlfriend), and there’s the prospect of Audrey somehow learning about Tommy’s past affiliation with the sperm bank. We also have a few brief scenes with Audrey’s arrogant ex-boyfriend, who has since gotten married, and even the topic of adoption comes up. None of this was especially offensive, but it was all rather juvenile, strained, and hopelessly predictable. The only scene of The Babymakers that truly was in poor taste was the final one. About that, I’ll say this much: The list of things adults get away with in the name of comedy has grown too long. If Chandrasekhar wants me to laugh at one of his movies, he’s going to have to try a lot harder than beer and pizza. A steak dinner would be nice. I’m partial to prime rib.