The duo at the center of Baby Mama -- Tina Fey, as a corporate climber with a loudly ticking biological clock, and Amy Poehler, as the uneducated slob hired to be her surrogate mom -- are to comedy what Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were to dancing. They trust each other, and they know each other's rhythms so well they can trade off who gets to be the straight man and who gets to deliver the laugh lines. If the film were just the two of them, it would be worth recommending, but writer/director Michael McCullers likes to share the comedic wealth -- he knows that giving the supporting characters good lines pays great rewards. Woefully underappreciated Maura Tierney captures the amused exhaustion of an experienced mother, while Steve Martin plays Fey's new-age spouting corporate shark of a boss with an appropriate laid-back zeal (his reward for a job well done is five minutes of uninterrupted eye contact). Romany Malco attacks what for all practical purposes appears to be little more than a token role as the Black Doorman, turning it into a razor-sharp portrayal of a straight-talking everyman -- and his DMX impression is a high point. Finally, Dax Shepard has played very dumb before (Idiocracy) and he's done conniving (Let's Go to Prison!), but bringing those two elements together as Poehler's dumb and conniving common-law husband, he creates a hilarious addition to the fine comic tradition of threatening but harmless morons.
For at least 75 minutes, there isn't a single dud scene -- or even a bad line of dialogue. Both the comedy and the narrative have a natural ease to them; the filmmakers and the actors are sure of themselves, and the material, as well as the audience. Even in the over-the-top scenes, like those with the Lamaze instructor who sounds like Elmer Fudd, the actors keep everything tethered to reality. Unfortunately, in order to resolve a story where everybody has been lying to just about everybody, McCullers stages a courtroom scene that is, to put it charitably, shoehorned into the film. He wrote himself into a jam and chose the fastest, rather than the most elegant, way to get himself out of it -- it's the only time the movie loses its breezy confidence. The film regains its footing almost instantly, however, with a feel-good finale that gives us more of what we've loved most: Fey and Poehler, who, along with the rest of the cast and crew, deliver this enjoyable bundle of comedic craftsmanship.