The comedy troupe Broken Lizard has been cranking out films semi-regularly since 2001’s Super Troopers. Though hardly mindblowing, Troopers still managed to approach near-Lebowskian levels of quotability, and its legacy as a quality stoner film somewhere between Grandma’s Boy and the Coen brothers’ classic is secure. Unfortunately for the troupe, each of their following films has turned out to be worse than the one before it, and their latest, The Babymakers, is no different.
What separates The Babymakers from those earlier films is the addition of legitimate star power to the cast. Paul Schneider and Olivia Munn play Tommy and Audrey, a married couple ready to have their first child. Tommy’s sperm turns out to be useless despite his having donated quality seed five years earlier in order to pay for Audrey’s wedding ring. The film explains Tommy’s decline in virility with a montage of Schneider taking crotch shots from golf clubs, footballs, etc. It turns out that one viable tube of Tommy’s is still on deposit, but has already been claimed by a gay couple eager to inseminate a surrogate. This leaves Tommy with only two options to get his load back: either accept a proposition of sex with one of the gay men or rob the sperm bank. The film obviously doesn’t admit much in the way of progressive nuance. Tommy and his friends recoil from the idea of gay sex because it’s revolting to them, while adoption is out of the question because — no joke — the baby would probably have to be Asian. It all starts to seem like the story is a product of a bunch of unworldly guys trying to make a film in their backyard; this is true of the film’s general aesthetic as well as its script.
Jay Chandrasekhar directs, as he has done for most of the troupe’s films (he also plays a former member of the Indian mob named Ron Jon who fixes computers and retrieves runaway monkeys for Mumbai barbers). He’s also an accomplished sitcom director, with several episodes each of Arrested Development and Community on his CV. This, unfortunately, only makes the weak direction of The Babymakers that much more aggravating: it feels as though the weakness of the material wrought a total collapse of creativity from the director. The actors barely make an effort, and the broadness of the characters and predictability of the slapstick make the film almost unendurable. Eventually Tommy, Ron Jon, and a couple others decide to get Tommy’s last sample back in an operation they deem “Operation Desert Sperm.” Once in the bank, requisite fat guy Kevin Heffernan manages to pull down a shelf of donations and spend about a minute writhing on a floor covered with semen, unable. That’s about the height of the film’s comedic creativity.
Though the members of Broken Lizard have aged and their films’ premises have grown up, they still can’t permit their humor to grow with them. There are plenty of successful comedies, even deliberately gross ones, made about middle-aged suburban couples. The Babymakers doesn’t fail because of its setting or even really because of its premise; it fails because the script is undeveloped, the jokes are repetitive, and the characters are cop outs. The conflicts in Tommy and Audrey’s marriage are brushed over or ignored. When Tommy’s initial deposits are revealed, Audrey and her family are aghast, certain he has children somewhere in the world. More baffling than the family’s reaction, though, is how that reaction is disregarded mere minutes later. Unmotivated plot points are introduced and never dealt with throughout the film, leaving only an incomprehensible, unfunny mess that’s as boring as it is offensive.