Broken Lizard Members Take A Working Vacation

For an indie romantic comedy on a miniscule budget, “The Babymakers” is almost a respectable effort. It has a few nice laughs and it’s inoffensively offensive, even when it dials up the crudity. But for the creators of “Super Troopers” and “Beerfest,” two comedies with devoted followings, “The Babymakers” is a pretty serious setback. Director and actor Jay Chandrasekhar and actor Kevin Heffernan are arguably the most talented members of comedy troupe Broken Lizard, whose aforementioned past efforts featured a consistently madcap pace and silly sight gags en masse. To be fair, three of their compatriots are absent here, but their significant involvement in the film only registers when the two are on screen together, and Chadrasekhar (as director) struggles with the banality of the material.

Paul Schneider, who stars as Tommy, is not a leading man. We can now say that definitively. Schneider has a decidedly milquetoast screen presence and no comedic timing to speak of. His character – a guy who can’t get his wife pregnant – is the center of the movie, so his lack of charisma is a problem. We’re supposed to root for him and he seems vaguely like a good guy, but there’s no spark, no inspiration to the character. It certainly doesn’t help that Tommy was written so thinly by Peter Gaulke and Gerry Swallow (the writing team behind “Black Knight” and “Ice Age: The Meltdown”). In fact, we’re never told anything about his profession, hobbies, relatives, or even that he has any of the above. Tommy is a “zero” of a character.

What we do know is that he’s been married to Audrey (Olivia Munn) for three years and she’s beginning to get anxious about starting a family. Munn has recently been holding her own on HBO’s “The Newsroom,” so it’s not a surprise that she does a fine job here. Her acting ability has room to improve, but she has a surprising authenticity that has translated to the big screen pretty well this summer (she was also featured in “Magic Mike”).

When it’s eventually confirmed that Tommy is sterile, we learn that he paid for Audrey’s engagement ring by repeated donations to a local sperm bank. Romantic, isn’t it? He surmises that the sperm bank wouldn’t have paid him for bad samples, so he decides to get some of it back. This ultimately leads to a robbery of the sperm bank. Obviously the most logical course of action.

The bright spots of the film are, in fact, Heffernan and Chandrasekhar, but their screen time is minimal. The former plays Tommy’s best friend, Wade, and the latter portrays Ron Jon, an ex-member of the Indian mob. Because when you’re trying to steal a sperm sample, who else would you call but the Indian mafia? Unfortunately, it takes a full 30 minutes before these two become involved in the narrative.

When Ron Jon shows up, “Babymakers” becomes a really a strange case of a director commandeering his own movie. Chandrasekhar seems bored and out of his element behind the camera, but when he’s in the movie, he’s as on point as ever. One gag involving his character and a lock picking kit is really, really funny. Another pleasant surprise is Nat Faxon’s performance – another Broken Lizard regular (but not official member) – the same Nat Faxon who recently won an Oscar for co-writing “The Descendants.” He plays another of Tommy’s friends, Zig-Zag, and his naïve racism (towards Ron Jon) is good for some laughs.

In the scenes that feel like a Broken Lizard movie, in which Heffernan, Chandrasekhar, and Faxon are allowed to run wild, things work more often than not. There’s an unpredictability to their dialogue and when the film feels like it might go off the rails, it’s at its best. But these hijinks only make up about a third of the film. It’s completely disappointing that so much of the film is devoted to a paper-thin lead character played by an actor with little personality, and while Munn delivers a decent lead performance, the weak script and lackadaisical direction prove insurmountable. Even if you’re not a Broken Lizard fan, you’d be hard-pressed to argue that “The Babymakers” is the best its members are capable of.

-J. Olson

Rating: ★★ out of ★★★★★ (Not So Good)

Studio: Millennium Entertainment
Director: Jay Chandrasekhar
Screenwriter: Peter Gaulke, Gerry Swallow
Starring: Paul Schneider, Olivia Munn, Kevin Heffernan, Wood Harris, Nat Faxon, Aisha Tyler, Collette Wolfe, Hayes MacArthur, Lindsey Kraft, Helena Mattsso
MPAA Rating: Rated R (for crude and sexual content, brief graphic nudity, language and some drug use)