Movie Review: Baby Done
By Matthew Huntley
January 31, 2021
“Baby Done” is a warm, charming and likable romantic comedy, the kind you can keep on in the background and know you’re not going to miss very much if you happen to step away from time to time. However, it’s this latter quality, which many romantic comedies share, that also makes this New Zealand import a mild disappointment. In its effort to be airy and charismatic (and probably intentionally predictable), it gradually loses our interest and ultimately has us asking, if the movie isn’t going to make more of an effort to stray farther from its well-known flock, what do we really have to gain by watching it, other than serviceable background noise?
The story and characters are familiar. Zoe (Rose Matafeo) and Tim (Matthew Lewis) are a carefree, insouciant couple who believe they have all the time in the world to live dangerously and uninhibited. In fact, they work as arborists and are unafraid to hop from limb to limb and hang freely from a tree’s branches, hardly scared of heights or the concept of falling. Zoe even has her heart set on winning the upcoming National Tree Climbing Championship, which coincides with her mantra, “We’re wild people! We should be reckless.”
You can imagine, then, Zoe’s sudden fear and anxiety when she learns she’s pregnant. The news comes as a particular blow because, hitherto now, Zoe always believed she and Tim would have the luxury to be cavalier and immature forever. They’ve never had anything tying them down. Indeed it was them who’d get disappointed whenever they’d lose yet another set of friends to parenthood. At their latest mutual friend’s baby shower, Zoe laments to her longtime confidante and fellow cynic, Molly (Emily Barclay), “Married, house, baby, done,” as if this is the default order of operations when it comes to living as an adult. To them, becoming parents is tantamount to relinquishing one’s freedom.
So what are Zoe and Tim to do now that they could be headed for the same “limited” lifestyle? Zoe decides to keep the baby but insists she and Tim, from whom she initially keeps her pregnancy a secret, make a bucket list of all the things they want to do over the next nine months, pre-baby. Their ideas range from the low-key and normal, such as dancing, to the more twisted and bizarre, such as taking ecstasy and having a threesome.
Another problem arises: Zoe learns she’s actually 27 weeks along, which was unbeknownst to her, so the couple’s time to check everything off the list has suddenly been cut in half. Now they find themselves in a mad scramble to live outrageously while also preparing to be responsible parents. Tension heightens between the two when Zoe shows more concern for the former and Tim the latter. She wants to continue clubbing and climbing trees while he wants to stay in, assemble baby furniture, and attend Lamaze class.
Sophie Henderson’s screenplay builds off the time-honored convention that expectant parents automatically assume their lives will be upended and, in many ways, end, once their new baby arrives. While I’m sure there is a certain amount of truth to this notion and that parents-to-be will inevitably become worrisome and prone to fear, dread, and reactionary behavior, not to mention anger and resentment, it’s not an especially refreshing engine for a feature-length comedy.
Watching “Baby Done,” I was of course reminded of several other movies with a similar setup: “She’s Having a Baby”; “Nine Months”; “Knocked Up;” “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” etc. And like many of these, “Baby Done” tosses in the usual side conflicts that accompany an unexpected pregnancy, such as whether or not the couple’s own relationship will survive under the pressure and uncertainty of their situation. Will Zoe and Tim self-destruct because they believe they won’t be good parents? Will they finally learn to grow up and accept that being selfless is an integral part of the parenting package they’ve signed up for? The movie also wants us to wonder whether the baby’s delivery will be a smooth one or the typical “emergency rush to the hospital,” during which the mom is screaming her head off and the dad is nowhere to be found until the very last minute.
I’ll not give away the details, but suffice it to say, “Baby Done” isn’t very surprising with the way it rolls out or eventually answers the above questions. For some viewers, this will be enough and the movie will be just what the doctor ordered as far as mindless yet well-intentioned entertainment. I suppose I can appreciate its value in that regard and I also recognize it being relatively grounded and relatable as a human comedy, thanks in large part to Matafeo and Lewis, who are natural and believable as a hyperactive couple who are understandably nervous about beginning a lifelong journey that involves raising and caring for another human being. (Lewis, by the way, was nearly unrecognizable after losing his baby fat and awkward adolescent features he displayed as Neville Longbottom in the “Harry Potter” films.)
The problem with “Baby Done” isn’t that it’s not credible; it’s that it treads territory we’ve been down too many times before and isn’t proactive about bringing new material to the table. It’s a harmless, marginal throwaway, but a throwaway nonetheless.
To be sure, comedies about unexpected pregnancies are in no small supply, but many of them can still feel fresh when the premise is enlivened by a gimmick or more complex and original characters (consider “Look Who’s Talking,” “Juno,” or “Baby Mama”). These too can be mindless and something you can keep on in the background but they’re also engaging. “Baby Done” has the mindlessness and likability parts down but it’s not especially interesting. In the end, I can’t say I lost anything by watching it but I also can’t say I gained anything either.