As an actor, Parks And Recreation’s Paul Schneider projects an innate intelligence, sensitivity, and sardonic wit that serves him brilliantly in some roles—All The Real Girls, for one, or his movie-stealing supporting turn in Bright Star—but that sort of dignity is hard to forsake. He isn’t a slobby “bro” type of the Seth Rogen or Zach Galifianakis variety, and seeing him play one in The Babymakers, a strained new comedy from the Broken Lizard troupe, proves awkward in ways the film can’t have intended. Paired with Olivia Munn, who hasn’t looked comfortable in comedies of any kind, Schneider flails through a variety of dick jokes, pratfalls, and dumb misunderstandings looking vaguely abashed, as if he’s cringing at the things he’s being asked to say and do. The film puts him in a spot.
Boasting a clever premise for an impossible-to-produce 45-minute movie, but trouble at twice the length, The Babymakers is a bank-heist comedy—specifically, about a man stealing back his own deposits from a sperm bank. After resolving to have a child, Schneider and Munn spend the better part of a year failing to get pregnant—the “Nine Months Later” title card, a shorthand for pregnancy in rom-coms, finds them still grinding away—and a doctor informs them that Schneider has “lazy sperm.” Schneider finds that news hard to believe, since he paid for Munn’s engagement ring with sperm donations, and he resolves to set things right. Encouraged by a nitwit buddy (Kevin Heffernan), who hooks him up with a dubious professional (director Jay Chandrasekhar) with “Indian mafia” connections, Schneider sets out to steal his last remaining sample.
As sperm-bank comedies go, The Babymakers clears the bar set by Frozen Assets, the Corbin Bernsen/Shelley Long team-up about an executive ordered to keep a bank from failing, but not—cue record-scratch—the kind of bank he expected. But nearly every comedy ever made clears that bar. The actual heist in The Babymakers leads to some fine comic payoffs, mostly from the ineptitude of amateur thieves in a zero-security situation, but getting there is a sophomoric torment. Before the scheme is even hatched, the film peels Schneider and Munn off into irritating cliques of straight-talking, advice-giving best friends and offers the expected gross setpieces at the fertility clinic. It’s raunchy/sweet in the American Pie/40-Year-Old Virgin tradition, and as dynamic as a glob of lazy sperm.