By Greg Bellavia | November 12, 2004

Stereotypes. In the right hands these generalizations can be used for sharp social commentary or humor. Programs such as “The Sopranos” and “Will and Grace” show that with the proper guiding force stereotypes don’t have to be offensive if characters with these traits are three dimensional or the humor is humane. If we can’t laugh at ourselves then who can we laugh at? However, for every mature handling of stereotypes there are probably one hundred offensive cases which is what gives the word such a bad connotation. Such is the case of James Tucker’s “Baby Fat” a film which revels in its mocking of Italians and the entertainment industry, stopping briefly to poke fun at African Americans, the Spanish and homosexuals.

Joey (Joshua Nelson) and Gina (Martene Fallacaro) are a couple going through marital strife. Deciding what they need in their lives is a baby yet not wanting Gina to get fat, they decide to pay an actress (because they will do anything for money, even more that prostitutes) to agree to be inseminated by Joey and carry the baby. As a screwball comedy premise there is a lot of material to mine from this situation. Alexander Payne’s “Citizen Ruth” was a dark comedy dealing with Laura Dern playing a knocked up piece of trailer trash who was willing to either abort her pregnancy or keep the baby based upon whether the liberals or conservatives around her would pay her more. “Citizen Ruth” was a success because it realizes the offensiveness of its storyline, using it as a springboard regarding the abortion issue in the United States and remaining funny. “Baby Fat” has no agenda other than to show Joey and Gina are very stupid.

That isn’t to say the film doesn’t have its funny moments. In a quiet moment Joey attempts to be romantic by reading Shakespeare but stops after several lines complaining that it’s not even written in English. Gina feels that she and Joey are destined to have a family because she says “it’s like our destiny or something like Star Wars”. In order to get to these lines one must wade through scene after scene of jokes falling flat and involving gags like a handicap woman who can’t operate her wheelchair properly, people dancing funny and farting (because no one has ever done that before). One entire scene is devoted to Gina’s best friend trying to test Joey’s loyalty to his wife by offering him “back-door loving”. Does a woman saying “back-door loving” over and over make you laugh? If it does this movie is for you. With the amount of obscenities thrown around and the almost non-stop sexual dialogue Tucker seems to think that dirty words equals funny. Dirty only equals funny when in the right context, such as Christopher Walken or a character like Godzilla offering “back-door loving”.

A mock audition is held, which is strangely reminiscent of horror film “Audition”, and Joey and Gina decide aspiring actress Daphne (Elizabeth Cooke) would be the perfect carrier for their child. Introduced as a central character at around the hour mark Daphne acts as the film’s moral compass for the last half hour but by this point her presence is alien to the comedic stereotypes around her and anything she says is tainted by the fact she’s an actress getting paid to have someone else’s child.

Is “Baby Fat” mean spirited intentionally? No. A flamboyantly gay character late in the film is amazed that Joey and Gina are oblivious to his sexual orientation shows that this is all meant as simple comedy. There is a great deal of fun that can be poked at both Italian mannerisms such as the “Guido” or the “Princess” persona and the entertainment industry is always ripe for mockery, but therein lies the true problem – They’re easy targets. With no greater agenda in mind other than some cheap laughs the jokes grow old fast while in a shorter form this idea would fly. The ending is pitch perfect and a great send off for these characters. By cutting all the fat out (pardon the pun) the humor that does work would shine instead of being held down as it is here.

“Baby Fat” means well despite its broad, over the top humor and looks great for an independent movie. It would work better in a shorter form and trying to aspire to aim the jokes higher then “back-door loving”.

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