"The Babymakers" is the kind of comedy that makes you appreciate Judd Apatow all the more.
This is what happens when emotion and character are sacrificed for jokes, when set pieces are preferred over narrative, when a movie is just a collection of so-so gags.
"The Babymakers" isn't exactly an official Broken Lizard comedy ("Super Troopers," ''Beerfest"), but it bears the comedy troupe's hallmarks of goofy gratuity and good-natured slapstick. It's directed by the group's Jay Chadrasekhar (he also appears as a former Indian mobster) and features a number of its members, most notably Kevin Hefffernan.
But the film's stars are from far outside the Broken Lizard sphere. Playing a married couple trying, and failing, to have a child are Paul Schneider ("All the Real Girls," ''Bright Star") and Olivia Munn (the "Daily Show" correspondent and supporting playing on HBO's "The Newsroom").
Both are curious leads for a broad comedy — Schneider because he has definite acting chops (his performance in "All the Real Girls" is a rare combination tender and funny), and Munn because she's almost distractingly stunning.
They have decent chemistry, though, as a couple bonded by a shared, casual lewdness. Their conversation about having a kid begins as a mock discussion about anal sex. That theoretically shocking tone is maintained throughout "Babymakers," which would prefer to treat childbearing with less sanctity and more semen jokes.
It's a welcome attitude in an age of hyper-conscious parenting, but "Babymakers" is doomed by its lack of heart. It opens — curiously, because the film is about the difficulties of impregnation — with the couple, Tommy and Audrey, woken by a crying baby in the next room. Audrey tells him it's his turn, to which Tommy reluctantly rises, shuts the door, mutters "goddamn baby" and returns to bed.
The tone is set: These are glib, selfish people and little that follows suggests they should be parents, or have any real interest in being them.
Instead, "Babymakers" is an increasingly incredulously plotted series of embarrassments about the wounded masculinity of a low sperm count. Ensuing misunderstandings nearly drive Audrey and Tommy apart and push Tommy to an ill-conceived sperm bank heist.
Schneider, who also starred for a time on NBC's "Parks & Recreation," has an easy Southern charm that can be natural or rakish, but few have known what do with him beside his longtime friend David Gordon Green, who directed "All the Real Girls." He nearly singlehandedly gives "Babymakers" a little substance — if only the script, by Peter Gaulke and Gerry Swallow, allowed for a little besides the easy gag.
"The Babymakers," a Millennium Entertainment release, is rated R for crude and sexual content, brief graphic nudity, language and some drug use. Running time: 95 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.
Motion Picture Association of America rating definitions:
G — General audiences. All ages admitted.
PG — Parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
PG-13 — Parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
R — Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
NC-17 — No one 17 and under admitted.