My Baby's Daddy
review by Gregory Avery, 9 January 2003

My Baby's Daddy is one of the first new movies of the year, and it's an inauspicious start. Miramax appears to be doing a hit-and-run release of this in the theaters, just as they did last year with DysFunktional Family, the Eddie Griffin stand-up comedy movie. Griffin is in this new picture, as well, but his scenes appear to have been pared down considerably, as if someone got concerned that, with his large eyeglasses, dazed look, and nasal dialogue delivery, he might suddenly turn into Urkel from Family Matters.

Griffin, Anthony Anderson and Michael Imperioli play three Philadelphia guys, friends since childhood, whose girlfriends all get pregnant and have babies at the same time. Rather than get married, the three guys begin sharing the responsibilities and duties of parenting the new offspring. This leads to many scenes involving many jokes about pee-pee, caca, and women's breasts -- fact, that seems to be what ALL the jokes in the movie are about. However, as it rounds the final lap towards the finish, the picture goes all earnest as it shows the three men having to face the fact that they're no longer "players" but fathers, which wouldn't be so bad if the men didn't sound more infantile than the kids.

The film, in its present state (there is much indication, with regards to characters, plot points, and character motivations coming out of nowhere, that the film has made many trips back and forth to the editing room), doesn't so much as progress from scene to scene as move from bit to bit -- some of the scenes look more like skits, and unfinished ones at that. The relentlessly crude humor in the context of raising babies becomes genuinely off-putting (rather like the creepy, off-color jokes that kept turning up in last year's "family" entertainments like Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas and the grotesque film version of The Cat in the Hat), but the film also traffics in naked racial stereotyping, particularly in its presentation of the Asian family belonging to the girl (Bai Ling) hooked up with Anderson's character. (By contrast, there is no satirizing whatsoever of whatever family Michael Imperioli's character has.) The girlfriend of Griffin's character is frankly presented as a, ahem, slut, as if sluttishness were funny in and of itself (and we're also supposed to get off on it, too). Vulgarity has its place, and there's nothing wrong with asking guys to take responsibility for their actions, but the tone of the film is so cruddy that, if this is about as well as the film can do towards giving the characters something funny and worthwhile to do, why should we be asked to hold it in any high regard when the film wants us to take them seriously in the end? The guys have been, literally, dumped on (there are spit-up jokes, too) for most of the film's duration.

During the first nine minutes of DysFunktional Family, Eddie Griffin jokes about the airliners used in the September 11 terrorist attacks, Osama bin Laden, hostages in the Middle East, and how blacks have been "hostages" in America for "450 years." As the film cuts to show audience members chortling madly, Griffin proceeds to talk about women's "juicy asses," paddling a girl on the behind during a "family reunion," Michael Jackson being physically beaten by his father, and how Griffin's own mother used to physically beat him. (And that, gentle reader, is where I draw the line.) Griffin also incessantly uses a derogatory word for African-Americans during his routine, justifying it by saying that the more you use it, the less power the word has. (No, it just makes you sound ignorant and inarticulate, and, besides, Richard Pryor had something to say about THAT in his 1982 Sunset Strip concert film, and nothing Griffin says makes me want to think otherwise.) With its crude descriptions of breast milk and its anything-for-a-laugh scene where, through the magic of CGI, infants are shown talking as dirty as the adults do, I still don't think that the problem with My Baby's Daddy is that the filmmakers are being insensitive or are stooping to deliberately work with such low material, but, rather, that they consider this to be the best they can do -- the jokes and characters and situations, however tasteless they may be, are considered to be perfectly presentable and acceptable. Whatever this may indicate with regards to the lowering of standards in our society I will leave to others to deliberate. In the meanwhile: if you don't like it, don't laugh.

Directed by:
Cheryl Dunye

Starring:
Eddie Griffin
Anthony Anderson
Michael Imperioli
Method Man
Bai Ling
Marsha Thomason
Tiny Lister
John Amos

Written by:
Eddie Griffin
Damon "Coke" Daniels
David Wagner
Brent Goldberg

Rated:
PG-13 - Parents
Strongly Cautioned.
Some material may
be in appropriate for
children under 13.

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