‘Babes’ Review: Adulting, With Babies

Among life’s biggest disappointments is a movie you wanted to love and didn’t. Alas: That’s what happened with “Babes.” The elements that promised joy were all there, starting with two very funny comic talents in Ilana Glazer and Michelle Buteau. There’s a screenplay by Glazer and Josh Rabinowitz, who was a producer on “Broad City,” the kooky, beloved show in which Glazer co-starred. And perhaps most of all, it’s directed by Pamela Adlon, whose chops for this kind of material — a buddy comedy about pregnancy, parenthood and grown-up life — were perfectly honed by her show “Better Things,” which I staunchly believe is among the best TV ever made.

But sometimes a pile of good ingredients doesn’t make something delicious, and I guess that’s what happened here. The marketing for “Babes” suggests something akin to “Bridesmaids,” the runaway 2011 hit that reminded Hollywood that raunchy comedies starring women can be hilarious and profitable. “Bridesmaids” owes some of its punch to its rapid-fire rhythm, the pileup of relentless jokes both verbal and physical.

“Babes” has plenty of raunch, but it’s otherwise very different. The setup is fairly modest: Eden (Glazer) and Dawn (Buteau) have been best friends since they were kids, and they’re still each other’s person, even though Dawn and her husband, Marty (Hasan Minhaj), moved to the Upper West Side and have a kid just barely out of diapers. Meanwhile, over in Astoria, Eden is free-spirited and single. Dawn and Marty’s second baby is born on Thanksgiving Day, and on the way home from the hospital Eden meets Claude (Stephan James) on the subway. Instant sparks fly, and their connection is undeniable, but Claude goes AWOL after their night together.

And then, about a month later, Eden realizes she’s pregnant. When Dawn promises to be there for her, she decides to have the baby. But in friendship, as in all kinds of love, the course never does run smooth.

“Babes” is, obviously, about pregnancy, which gives plenty of opportunity for body humor involving fluids and openings and other matters. But it’s just as much about friendship, and about the struggle to maintain connections when life circumstances change. It’s also about how frustrating young parenthood can be, even if you have the ability to pay for help and don’t worry about the roof over your head. In sum, you can almost hear the movie saying, adult life is a land of contrasts, and you’d better just hang on for the bumpy ride.

Back to top button