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Dustin Putman

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My Baby's Daddy (2004)
2 Stars

Directed by Cheryl Dunye
Cast: Eddie Griffin, Anthony Anderson, Michael Imperioli, Bai Ling, Joanna Bacalso, Marsha Thomason, Paula Jai Parker, Method Man, Amy Sedaris, Tom 'Tiny' Lister Jr., John Amos, Jason Sklar, Randy Sklar, Naomi Gasin
2004 – 79 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for sexual content, language, and drug references).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, January 10, 2004.

Despite holding more funny moments than expected and a higher tolerability level than "Chasing Liberty," "My Baby's Daddy" is precisely the type of forgettable, low-wattage motion picture that is released to theaters every January. With a negligent running time of 79 minutes (including the opening animated sequence and the end credits) and a ho-hum, unexciting premise more or less lifted from "Three Men and a Baby," the film airily drifts from memory even as it proceeds to play itself out. There is no good reason to make a trip to see "My Baby's Daddy," but at least it goes down painlessly enough and isn't a complete wash.

Lifelong buddies Lonnie (Eddie Griffin), G (Anthony Anderson), and Dominic (Michael Imperioli) are thrown for a loop when their girlfriends—Rolanda (Paula Jai Parker), Xi-Xi (Bai Ling), and Nia (Joanna Bacalso)—announce they're pregnant at the same time and then deliver the babies nine months later on the very same day. For these friends, whose professional aspirations have gone unfulfilled, they are clearly big babies themselves, having not yet reached mature adulthood. They joyfully welcome their new bundles of joy, but receive a reality check when it becomes clear they don't know the first thing about raising children. As G and Dominic attempt to make their relationships with their girlfriends last, Lonnie is promptly dropped by the scuzzy Rolanda and sets his sights on a cute single mother (Marsha Thomason) he meets at parenting class.

Directed by Cheryl Dunye and written with mild spark by Eddie Griffin, Damon 'Coke' Daniels, Brent Goldberg, and David Wagner, "My Baby's Daddy" is a slight, decidedly un-PC comic confection that has more laughs and heart then the terrible trailers and TV ads would suggest. When the sincere parenting instructor (Amy Sedaris) tells her class of prospective mothers to get "in their most comfortable positions," the payoff is devilishly hilarious in the case of the slutty Rolanda. And the running joke concerning the names of Xi-Xi's Asian family members, while stereotypical, still garners chuckles. There is also a surprising thoughtfulness in the way the film portrays the three grown men's coming-of-age, and a depth to some of the supporting players that is unveiled when least expected. Their growth does not come sudden, but takes time as they make mistakes and then learn from them.

Less successful are the slapstick scenes in which Lonnie, G, and Dominic carry out the basic parenting skills required. They have been seen too many times before to be effective, and lame gags involving urine and changing diapers are pure throwaway fodder. Director Cheryl Dunye fails to satisfactorily portray the bond between fathers and children, but, to be fair, she seems to always be more interested in setting up the next joke. And the relationship between Dominic and Nia is unconvincing. When she starts a romance of her own with her midwife, the happy ending constructed for Dominic and Nia overlooks Nia's newfound homosexuality and comes off as just a cheap and irresponsible.

Eddie Griffin (2002's "Undercover Brother") and Anthony Anderson (2003's "Scary Movie 3") are skilled comedic performers, and portrays their roles of Lonnie and G with just the right mixture of the goofy and serious. In contrast, Michael Imperioli's Dominic is a bore, and doesn't capture enough screentime to really matter. As G's patient girlfriend Xi-Xi, respected actress Bai Ling (1999's "Wild Wild West") is very funny and arguably too classy for such a film. Still, it's nice to see she can have a sense of humor. And deliciously stealing her scene is the invaluable Amy Sedaris (2003's "Elf," TV's "Strangers with Candy"), who gains priceless comic mileage out of her ever line delivery as the parenting teacher.

Even with keeping an open mind, walking into "My Baby's Daddy" was a disheartening experience. Walking out, the film genuinely surprised me. It is sloppy and rough around the edges and doesn't always hit a home run with its potential laughs, but it did have a certain entertainment value that couldn't have possibly been expected. As a stand alone motion picture, "My Baby's Daddy" goes down as a near-hit that misses a recommendation by simply being totally inconsequential. But it does have its peculiar merits, and a warmth, and some solid enough chuckles along the way.
© 2004 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman