Monday, February 1, 2010

A Decade of Dreck #23: My Baby's Daddy

Charge Shot!!! is celebrating the end of the decade in the most masochistic way we know how - by watching and writing about the 100 worst movies of the last ten years as defined by film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Click here to see RT's complete list, click here for more about the Decade of Dreck project, and click here to see all of the movies we've done so far.

My dad is quite the film buff. He has a breadth and depth of knowledge about movies that never ceases to impress me. Every time I think I can out-nerd him in terms of having seen some weird/obscure/foreign/whatever movie, he will always one-up me. Case in point, he rented 2001 for me before Star Wars, which I think is a pretty unique act for a father to perform concerning his eldest child. The reasoning behind his showing me a trippy, philosophical, hard sci-fi film by one the most revered director's in history before the one that has toys made out of it is beyond me. Maybe he's just a good dad, though I think delaying an 8-year-old's exposure to Star Wars for any amount of time is borderline criminal. Anyway, for his most recent birthday the one gift he asked me for was the newly released Criterion Collection DVD of Jacque Tati's Play Time, an almost dialogue-free French film (why my dad hates Wall•E, I don't think I'll ever know) that is as arty as they come.

Conversely, my youngest brother Teddy owns My Baby's Daddy on DVD. My parents' house therefore has the unique honor of housing both a copy of Play Time and today's entry.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that movies about parenthood or more generally movies featuring babies in a prominent role tend to suck. The Rotten Tomatoes Worst of the Worst for the decade now past has at least five, and those are just the ones whose baby factor I can deduce from the poster art and plot synopsis; Lord only knows how many more baby movies lie in wait. My Baby's Daddy has the uninspired distinction of attempting to blaze trails that are already blazed: it brings nothing new to several genres and subgenres that have had their horses beaten long past the moment that they had shuffled loose the equine mortal coil.

Baby's Daddy
's plot is familiar enough. Three lifelong buddies- G (the pretty much always affable Anthony Anderson), Lonnie (Eddie Griffin, whose Undercover Brother, the one movie of his that I like, was rendered redundant by the holy-crap-awesome Black Dynamite last year), and Dom (Michael Imperioli, Christopher from The Sopranos) simultaneously get their girlfriends pregnant. This sequence of events (i.e. scenes of unprotected sex followed by scenes of girlfriends angrily telling the leads that they're pregnant) is so poorly directed that I was pretty sure that the girlfriends all told our heroes that they were knocked up the morning after. Now I've never been confronted by a lady telling me I got her pregnant but I think it generally takes more than eight hours to tell if you're going to have a baby. Am I wrong?

Anyway, the trio now has to go through the motions of a parenthood movie: they get peed on, handle poop, and complain until they learn that growing up and having a family of your own is better than chasing skirts and partying all night. However, because this is a movie, if you go with the flow and decide to raise a kid properly you can also have your wildest dreams (being a boxer, inventor, and record producer respectively) come true in adorable baby-centric ways.

This movie deserves the tagline "Having Children Made Him a Father. Taking Care of Them Made Him a Man." as much as Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls does and that my friends is an impressive accomplishment.

The strangest part about the experience of watching My Baby's Daddy was that there were parts I was actually pretty close to liking. Anderson's storyline in particular was much more entertaining to follow than his accomplices. If you had reduced Griffin and Imperioli to roles tantamount to Jason Segel and Jonah Hill's in Knocked Up and kept the focus on G (Laziest. Character name. Ever.) this movie might be something close to passable after a re-write or two.

Worth noting, G's girlfriend is played by Bai Ling, and is therefore Chinese. Their son is named Bruce Leroy. Now, I'm as in favor of a Last Dragon reference as the next guy, but really?

Griffin in particular is troublesome. He starts out the film as the "nerdy" (i.e. having the most mannerisms resembling those traditionally associated with white people) friend in the group. He's literally just doing the same voice and wearing the same glasses he did when he fell under Denise Richards' white she-devil spell in Undercover Brother. In order to free himself from his harlot of a baby mama's grasp and to win the heart of the pretty single mom in his parenting class, Lonnie has his friends give him a makeover and he becomes a jive-talkin' player who dresses like a pimp. The problem with this is that his dream lady was the one who made the first move, dropping a line on him that goes something like "Aww your son is so cute, but he's not nearly as cute as his father". So, you need your buddies to give you a makeover (wow that sounds gay, not that there's anything wrong with that) to charm this woman who has already made really inappropriate passes at you in front of your goddamn children? That seems counter-intuitive. When that doesn't work, and whenever Griffin seems to be in the doldrums, he reverts back to his nerdy self, glasses and nerdy haircut and all though he otherwise seems to have been utterly transformed into a standard Eddie Griffin character for the rest of the time. He's honestly like Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde.

This incongruity could probably be explained by the fact there are clearly two sets of writers on this thing. The first is made up of Griffin himself and Damon "Coke" Daniels, a guy whose nickname I will let speak for itself. The other two are the guys who wrote Van Wilder. My guess would be that Goldberg and Wagner, the Van Wilder guys wrote this movie and that Griffin and "Coke" were brought in after Griffin signed on to give it a more "urban" (i.e. black) flavor. The whole thing reeks of third-rate punch ups; punchlines nobody asked for are shouted from off camera any time there is dead air.

I won't ever bother discussing Imperioli's plotline except that it involves his girlfriend becoming a lesbian and that the screenwriters probably derived their understanding of female homosexuality from either Gigli, porn, or both. Clearly there was enough time between Sopranos seasons and Christopher needed money to support his heroin habit.

Pleasantly surprising however is a supporting turn from Method Man as Anderson's ex-con cousin who learns some lessons about maturity of his own. There's nothing particularly funny about his character but holy crap if seeing Method Man go around being Method Man isn't hilarious. The main characters live together in the house of Lonnie's uncle Virgil (played by John Amos, who is either the dad from Good Times or the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs from The West Wing depending on who you ask) and they have a poster of the cover art of Limp Bizkit's Significant Other on the wall in their living room and it's fairly funny to see Method Man walk past that particular album considering he raps on it. Also, seeing a member of the Wu-Tang Clan interact with Bai Ling's Chinese family is surreal and meta-humorous on a sublime level.

Thankless bit parts are given Amy Sedaris, Scott fucking Thompson, and the 6'5" Black Guy Who Played the President in The Fifth Element (as a Suge Knight-esque producer with the hilarious name of Drive By, his record contracts solely of the words "DON'T FUCK WITH ME") but their combined contributions are so minimal that you can't block out the festering mediocrity and badness of the rest of the movie.

When even the best movies about arrested adolescents becoming parents don't have great staying power (I'm looking at you, Knocked Up) the worst of the lot must be pretty goddamn terrible. My Baby's Daddy falls flatly in the latter category.

My Baby's Daddy is ranked #45 on the Rotten Tomatoes Worst 100 list with 4% freshness. Its RT page can be found here.