When it comes to entertainment, comedy has the least leeway for success. Anyone who has been to a comedy club knows pretty quickly if a stand-up comic is going to make them laugh or not. Comedy either works or it doesn’t. It isn’t like action, where there are multiple grades and audiences can leave the theater feeling somewhat satisfied even if the explosions were too small or the feats not death-defying enough. If comedy doesn’t make the audience laugh, then it has utterly failed. Sadly, The Babymakers is a humorous concept that only sometimes succeeds.
Tommy and Audrey (Paul Schneider and Olivia Munn) are a married couple going on their third year of marriage, and they’ve finally decided to have children. Unfortunately, after months of trying, they fail to conceive. Discouraged, they turn to friends and family for advice, and finally consult a medical specialist to explain what the issue is. Unfortunately, Tommy’s sperm has turned abnormal due to too many years of trauma, and he is no longer able to father children. As luck would have it, Tommy donated several deposits of his sperm to a sperm bank earlier in his life before his disability. He and his friends, including best friend Wade (Kevin Heffernan) and erratic contract thief Ron Jon (Jay Chandrasekhar), hatch a plan to break into the sperm bank and lift Tommy’s last remaining healthy deposit.
Hands down, The Babymakers has an amazing comedic concept. The idea of it conjures images of a heist movie tailored to fit the unique and hilarious details of this plot. Unfortunately, the film opts to focus more on the comedic relationships of the characters, leaving little left over for the main draw of the film. Furthermore, when the film finally gets to it, the heist part isn’t handled in a particularly funny manner, which is a big letdown. The film does have its funny moments – like a scene showcasing how too many distractions can ruin a man’s moment of self-pleasure – but since these moments are few and far between, one can’t help but feel like a big opportunity was missed here.
For a film that chose to focus on a human, emotional core rather than the big conceit of the story, it doesn’t help that none of the characters are likeable. Tommy and Audrey are the characters audiences are supposed to identify with most, but they don’t come across as normal people. They don’t react in expected ways to their situation and their dialogue – especially with each other – sounds too slick and movie-esque. At no time will audiences care if they succeed or not. Furthermore, Tommy and his friends are kind of repulsive. The film establishes early that Wade is dating one of Tommy’s ex-girlfriends, and Wade happily shares naked photos of her with the group to ogle. Later, this same group is shown taking toddlers and racing them against each other, using a bottle of milk to lure the children down a makeshift racetrack. Is this enough to condemn Tommy to a childless future? No, but it doesn’t help elicit sympathy, either. It’s understood that Tommy and Audrey are a young, hip couple who have a bit of an edge to them, but it would have served the comedy of the film better if they were straight-men swept up in the absurdity swirling around them rather than being part of it.
The biggest issue in the film is that the comedy is almost purely surface, comprising mostly sight gags and gross out humor. During the heist, one character spies a large canister of sperm donations placed on a high shelf, so he grabs the wobbliest chair with casters to stand on in order to reach the unwieldy container. Guess what happens next. The telegraphing of the punchlines is also ruinous to The Babymakers. Due to a personal complication, Tommy needs Ron Jon to return the money Tommy paid him to commit the heist, lying that Tommy needs the money (that Ron Jon has clearly already spent) for a family member’s organ transplant. Ron Jon expresses his sympathy and that he’ll “see what [he] can do.” Given how crazy the film has presented his character thus far, it’s obvious that Ron Jon isn’t planning on paying Tommy back with cash.
Comedy is difficult to nail down perfectly, and The Babymakers is evidence of this. It’s obvious that the bits are funny, but just not funny enough to draw out many laughs. This comes as a surprise, considering Chandrasekhar’s rich history of solid comedies, but this time audiences will be better served checking out his earlier work.