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Maybe Baby  

Hugh Laurie, Joely Richardson, Rowan Atkinson, Tom Hollander, Emma Thompson, Adrian Lester, Dawn French, Joanna Lumley. Written and Directed by Ben Elton Based on the novel 'Inconceivable' by Ben Elton

Sam (Hugh Laurie) and Lucy (Joely Richardson) have it all, great jobs (Ben works as an executive at the BBC and Lucy at a London talent agency), a beautiful home overlooking the Thames, a dog named Willie and a perfect marriage. The only thing missing from their lives is.....a baby. The film basically tells the story of the couples attempts at conceiving, but ultimately it boils down to a romantic comedy in the same vein as Notting Hill and Four Weddings And A Funeral.

Maybe Baby is based the novel 'Inconceivable' written by British writer/ comedian Ben Elton and is not anything to do with the 1988 Diane Keaton starrer of the same name. For those not familiar with Elton's previous work, well, he was the writing force behind British TV classics 'Blackadder', 'Mr Bean' and 'The Young Ones'. He also wrote the recent BBC sit-com 'The Thin Red Line'. Along with Richard Curtis (Notting Hill, Four Weddings), he is probably one of Britain's most sucessful comedy writers.

So, after conquering TV and also writing novels (Stark, Popcorn etc.), Elton moves into film and writes and directs his debut feature, Maybe Baby. Also featuring are some of Britain's greatest acting talents, comedienne Dawn French, Joanna Lumley, Rowan 'Mr Bean' Atkinson, Emma Thompson and Hugh Laurie.

The film kicks off with Sam and Lucy using every opportunity to have sex in order to conceive, which brings some truly comedic moments, but I found that the film started off very slow indeed, and it all becomes very annoying and not at all funny after a while. In fact the first part of the film drags on far too long. But, then things do start to pick up as Sam gets demoted to children's TV at the BBC abd decides to write a movie screenplay based on his misfortune at home, without Lucy knowing. And, as the couple continue to try for a baby through IVF and the appearence of Rowan Atkinson, the film becomes more enjoyable. The sperm donation scenes are genuinely funny, epecially the scene in which Sam has to deliver his semen within 50 minutes of ejaculating delivers one of the best one liners of the year.

The screenplay too, is full of great dialogue, of which you come to expect fom Elton, with his years of experience in the genre, but I found the most endearing part of the film is the more 'serious' scenes which are quite emotional, as things don't quite go to plan for the couple.

Stand out perfomances come from the more unknown actors especially Tom Hollander as Scottish film director Ewan Proclaimer. Excellent casting and one of the movie's funniest characters. The films two central roles played by Laurie and Richardson are also carried off very well and the two are a believeable couple and feed from one another to produce respectable performances. ANd, can I say how much Joely Richardson looks like Cameron Diaz in this picture. You'll see the resemblence as Elton probably did with two major references toward the American actress in the script. Anyway, the supporting cast including Adrian Lester as Sam's friend and work collegue and James Purefoy as the hot-shot movie star, Carl Phipps who tries to lure Lucy are again, excellent.

The DVD itself contains an entertaining commentary from Ben Elton and Hugh Laurie containing behind the scenes information and Elton gives accounts on his experiences as a debuting director. Technical aspects to directing are explained such as 'crossing the line' during the films early dinner party scene wher Elton gets Laurie to explain the process and his amateur approach to directing come across in the audio. But the commentary is an interesting look at the making of the film and both Laurie and Elton give some interesting information. The interview reel on the disc too is quite informative, but drags quite a bit. A reasonable disc though, with scene access and theatrical trailer, whick I would say not to watch until after you've seen the film as it contains most of the films best jokes.

To round up, Ben Elton has delivered a good all round picture and extracts good performances from all of his actors. A an emotional film which is very well written too with Elton deliving a semi-autobiographical feature as his debut (he suffered infertility himself, although he now has two kids). A film that is quite well paced, but one of those that gets better as it goes on.

The DVD cover said 'if you liked For'll love this'. I'd agree. It's not anywhere near as good as that movie, but it's not fair to compare. Maybe Baby is a good all-round film that delights.

Paul Heath

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