Comedy at SXSW: How Many Broken Lizard Members Does it Take to Make a Good Comedy?

Comedy at SXSW: How Many Broken Lizard Members Does it Take to Make a Good Comedy?

Mar 15, 2012

The Babymakers is not a Broken Lizard movie, though it could certainly be mistaken for one since it stars core members Kevin Heffernan and Jay Chandrasekhar, features a few small roles for fan favorites like M.C. Gainey and Nat Faxon, and was directed by Chandrasekhar, who also helmed Super Troopers, Club Dread and Beerfest (Heffernan directed the trope's last film, The Slammin' Salmon). Plus, it has a plot that seems tailor made for the minds behind said films: A married couple are having trouble conceiving a baby due to the husband's "confused sperm," so to prove that he did at one time have what it takes, he'll do whatever it now takes to get his last remaining swimmers back from the center he donated them to years earlier, even if that means breaking in and stealing them.

On paper it all sounds promising. A heist film centered around a sperm bank with a strict no-returns policy? There's plenty of ways that can go right. Unfortunately, The Babymakers finds more ways to get it wrong than right, begging the question, how many Broken Lizard members does it take to save (or kill) a comedy?

Things are off to a good start with the casting of Paul Schneider as the husband, but the film instantly handicaps itself by settling on Olivia Munn as the wife. I know she has diehard fans from her days of co-hosting Attack of the Show, but she's just not funny. I was willing to give her a fair shot when she joined The Daily Show as a correspondent a few months back. I was even willing to chalk up her rough start to a combination of nerves and paling in comparison to the show's seasoned veterans. But I'm out of reasons to keep giving her a pass. Her comedy chops just aren't there. If you happen to already find yourself a Munn fan, you'll be a leg up on the movie, and will appreciate the shameless ways it takes advantage of every possible moment it can to get her to either dress down or thrust her chest out. Those of us who find her neither funny or sexy will have to endure her cold, lifeless presence in order to chuckle at what few laughs the film has to offer.

Fundamental casting flaw aside, there's just not a lot for anyone on screen to work with. Schneider gives it a committed go, but there's little to work with except for a string of obvious sperm-related jokes; his failed attempts to prove that his sperm does still work really only prove that he probably shouldn't be reproducing in the first place (seriously, masturbation is not that difficult). And not only is he largely unlikable, but so are most of his friends. Heffernan might as well be playing Farva's slightly smarter brother, but he's still just the sidekick idiot. The rest of the gang (Faxon as the well-meaning dolt, Chandrasekhar as the crazy Indian criminal, and Wood Harris as the one pal who must have a better group of human beings to spend his time with considering he rarely pops up) are serviceable, but their roles are so underwritten that they barely even factor into the story.

That lack of cohesive ensemble is ultimately what brings down The Babymakers. Without standout characters who all have a reason for sticking around other than to bumble into things, there's just nothing to prop up the premise. It's not a good, raunchy romcom because it's missing all of the rom and most of the com (though it's got plenty of raunch). Nor is it a good heist comedy because it's also missing most of the heist.

And that's a shame because it's easy to imagine how much could have been improved had this been a full Broken Lizard teamup. Give Schneider the likes of Paul Soter, Erik Stolhanske and Steve Lemme to play off, and there could be gold in them thar hills. And if Chandrasekhar was looking to bring back a hot actress with comedy chops from one of their previous films, he opted for the wrong Slammin' Salmon cast member. That honor should have gone to the great April Bowlby, a lovely and funny lady who deserves a bigger presence on the big screen. Alas, all of that is just Monday Morning Quarterbacking and, as is, The Babymakers is evidence that unless all of the BL team are the bench, the game's barely worth watching.

Categories: Features, Film Festivals
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