It’s no secret that we, as a society, are starting to have children much later in life (says the guy who will pay for his kid’s college tuition with his social security check). We live much longer, and there’s more to enjoy in our youth. Interestingly, while teenage pregnancy is on the rise, so is infertility amongst older adults—all the trappings of the perfect comedy.
In Josh F. Huber’s Making Babies, Katie and John Kelly (Eliza Coupe and Steve Howey) are ready to start a family, but as comedies go, it’s not going to be easy. The first problem is getting on the same page. Katie wants to have children, not only because she’s bullied at work by the working mom’s club, she merely wants to have a baby because she’s ready. John, on the other hand, was just laid off and wants to put his severance into his home micro-brewing company.
“Katie wants to have children…she’s bullied at work by the working mom’s club…”
Try as they might, Katie can’t conceive, so what’s the problem? According to their Patton-esque fertility specialist, Dr. Remis (Ed Begley Jr.), Katie has the perfect vagina, but John has a lot of slow swimmers. The news starts a series of comedic scenes involving masturbating into a cup, hijinks involving shots and hormones, a crazy homeopathic and spiritual sooth-sayer, and a night sleeping in the car.
What Making Babies has going for it is a pair of wonderful performances from its leads Eliza Coupe and Steve Howey. If you’re familiar with their work, you know they are solid comedic actors that ground the silliness of the script. They will carry you to the finish line. It’s also great to see the late Glenne Headly as Katie’s devoutly religious mother, Bird, who is dead set against any IVF procedures. As Dr. Remis, Ed Begley Jr. is just a little too low key for the role he’s been tasked to play, but then how can you not love Ed.
The problem with Making Babies is that it’s just one of those light comedies that fit the basic story structure you learn in screenwriting school, yet has nothing profound to say. I describe the comedy as light because it’s more humorous than funny. You’ll smile but rarely laugh out loud. The comedic bits are not that original. Yes, jacking off into a plastic cup at the clinic is funny, but YouTube is littered with hundreds, if not thousands, of sketches based on this idea. All very textbook.
“…needed to make a choice between going for real laughs or have something profound to say…”
Then there’s the obligatory wacky moment as the couple goes to Caesar (Jon Daly) as the alternative, homeopathic spiritualist sending them on a deep ayahuasca (I think) trip. It gets all wacky and crazy here. Again, it’s all textbook comedy fodder.
I personally question one major plot point, that screws with this string of comedy sketches. Early on, Katie is told by Remis that she has the perfect vagina, which indicates she should be a baby-making machine. If the problem is John’s preference over boxers and briefs, A. Shouldn’t he just switch to boxers and let the boys air out. B. Why is Katie going through all the hormone therapies and medical procedures, and C. why is Katie blamed as the one who can’t have children? The answer is the filmmakers were going for the laugh over telling a cohesive story.
Performances alone cannot save an uninspired script. The story is not bad per se, but it’s not original or inspired and therefore Making Babies wallows in mediocrity, when it needed to make a choice between going for real laughs or have something profound to say about having children to make the journey worth taking.
Making Babies (2019) Written and directed by Josh F. Huber. Starring Eliza Coupe, Steve Howey, Ed Begley Jr. Glenne Headly, Bob Stephenson, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Jon Daly.
5 out of 10 stars