SXSW Review: 'The Babymakers'
Smutty, silly, sweet and a little too slack
"The Babymakers" was clearly produced on a shoestring budget, but at the same time, it's clearly made with a lot of love, and unlike many faux-Apatow comedies recently, it understands that the balance of character and plot with over-the-top comedy is a delicate one. Better, it actually carefully calibrates that balance, with plenty of rooting in character before we jump to, say, the pools of bodily fluids and the wacky criminals and car chases and the gratuitous male nudity the film builds up to. There's one big flaw with "The Babymakers" -- about which more later -- but the fault is not in the script (by Peter Gaulke and Gerry Swallow) or in the direction of Broken Lizard's Jay Chandrasekhar, who has also given us "Super Troopers" and "The Dukes of Hazzard" as part of a career with highlights and lowlights where "The Babymakers" fits more in the upper half than the lower.
Tommy (Paul Schneider) and Audrey (Olivia Munn) are a loving, happy couple; they're married, they're friends, they're happy. And they feel ready to have children, and they start trying. A lot. A lot, a lot, a lot. And nothing works. Tommy knows it can't be him; years ago, he secretly raised the money to buy Audrey her engagement ring by donating at a sperm bank, so he knows, in the vulgar parlance, that his boys can swim. But after frustration and tests, it turns out that his boys have, in recent years, lost their sense of purpose. ...
Schneider eventually realizes that if he's going to get his wife pregnant, he needs to steal his sperm back -- a plot assembled with two friends (Kevin Heffernan and Erik Stolhanske) and a one-time member of the Indian mafia, played nicely by director Chandrasekhar -- but it's worth noting that the heist comedy comes only after plenty of character stuff, as a humiliated and depressed Tommy feels emasculated -- literally and figuratively -- as an ever-growing circle of his friends know that he can't, uh, seal the deal.
Schnieder is, as ever, remarkable -- he can get a laugh casually pushing a football away from someone who's pointing it at him -- and he also knows how to sell the emotions of the tale. There's one scene where you can even see the microphone pack and cord under Schneider's shirt, and yet he's still funny and good in that moment to a degree where you almost overlook a sub-Ed Wood moment in the production.
As for Munn, though, her performance as Audrey is defined by her usual manner on-screen: Lifeless line delivery at high volume and the dead, doll-like eyes of a shark. Much like, say, Jessica Alba, Munn is a well-shaped mammal with no acting skill at all; in some better universe, she'd be working at car shows or county fairs, but in 21st Century America, breasts and notoriety are often considered more important than talent. And watching Munn try to act sad -- watching Munn try to act -- is like watching a dog trying to do math: Maximum effort, minimum comprehension.
But even with the problems that come with a low budget and low expectations that come with Munn, you can sense everyone involved in "The Babymakers" gave the film their all, up to and including Kevin Heffernan doing Three Stooges moves in a pool of fake, uh, bodily fluid. "The Babymakers" doesn't quite deliver, but it's hardly barren, either.