I haven’t read any reviews of A Deadly Adoption, the supposed parody of Lifetime movies starring Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig, and yet I know I’m not the first person to note this: What was the point, exactly? It’s an honest question. There’s little merit in or purpose to a parody unless you have a larger statement to make about something, but I don’t get the impression Ferrell and Wiig have anything to say at all here except, “Tee hee. Lifetime!” So why do it? It can’t be nostalgia-driven, because Lifetime movies still happen (Bella Thorne is in one this week, in fact, that appears to involve dancing and DRUGS and TEARS). It isn’t any kind of larger statement about the Women In Peril trope. There are a couple moments that appear to be poking fun, if you look hard enough, but otherwise it plays straight. And there’s the rub: The problem with aping a Lifetime joint is that you can’t do it with subtlety, or else it just plays… like a Lifetime joint.
Having said all that, let’s examine just how Lifetimey this sucker is.
Will Ferrell plays Robert Benson, which I kept shortening in my head to Bob Benson, as in the target of Pete Campbell’s snippy “NOT GREAT, BOB,” from Mad Men, and now I keep picturing this movie with James Wolk in it and mmm. Ferrell’s Bob Robert Benson is cloaked in the kind of hair and beard that bespeak the aging frontman of a Bee Gees tribute band who still plays at the local watering hole on the second Wednesday of every month. Our opening scene is shot in a bucolic family yard by the lake in a small town, where several friends gather as Will juggles a baby and flatly delivers information about his life: He’s an author and budding financial guru; he loves his daughter and his wife (“Nothing’s gonna pull me away from my family!”); there’s a baby on the way. Trope 1: Milquetoast, Smug Exposition About Personal Happiness That We All Know Is About To Implode.
Also, when someone asks where his wife Sarah is, he says cheerfully that she’s “always running around” and probably “digging in her garden,” in a way that suggests he thinks she is extremely simple. Trope 2: Old-School Sexist Dismissiveness About One’s Life Partner and Her Hobbies. Or old-school Lifetime, at least. Presumably Bella Thorne isn’t suffering this kind of malarkey in her Dance, Drugs & Tears: The Edna May Millerville Story. Which reminds me that this really IS lazy if it doesn’t have a triple-barrel name, and/or a rotating cast of Lifetime staples like Meredith Baxter (Birney) and JoBeth Williams and whatnot.
Meanwhile, Kristen “Sarah Benson” Wiig is dancing around on the boat dock calling for her husband, at which point Will tells everyone that the dock is rotting and they really need to get it fixed, and that he’d clearly better go get the little woman and throw her over his shoulder and save her from her own stupid stupidness. Trope 3: Using An Overly Jovial Tone While Being A Condescending Douchecanoe.
Speaking of boats, and things being bathed in water:
When the railing gives out and Wiig falls ass-over-teakettle into this relatively tame lake, we get to check two very important boxes next to Tropes 4 and 5: Slow-Motion Comeuppance, and Dramatic Near-Fatal Accident That’s Actually Not That Dramatic And Seemingly Shouldn’t Be Near-Fatal But Whatever Everyone Freaks Out Anyway. LIFETIME! I think Wiig actually whacks herself on the boat, or something? Because she knows how to swim, so it can’t just be a basic drowning. She had to be unconscious, I think. Why am I spending time on this? Spending Time On Little Things That Weren’t That Important To The Filmmakers So Why Are They Important To Me is really more my habit than a trope so I won’t count it. Let’s just all know it’s there, though.
Look at this Terror Face. This is Infinite Lifetime, right here, especially because it TOO is deployed in slow-motion. As is this:
Trope 6: Embarassingly Uncoordinated Stunt Rescue For Which The Collapsed, Rotted Railing Appears To Be Suddenly Back In Place. I applaud the commitment with which this stunt guy tried to contort his body like a suburban dad who’s never actually leapt off of anything in his life and isn’t TOTALLY sure this was a good idea but he’s stuck now because he’s in midair and his wife is underwater, and everyone would have thought he was a dink if he’d said, “SARAH! NO! Um, hey, Steve, you’re strong, do you mind…?” Bravo, stunt man.
Will performs incredibly delicate fake CPR on Kristen Wiig. Like, he gently arranges himself into a comfortable position so he can lightly close her nostrils. This might have been amusing if played for laughs, but instead it just looks like an actor who’s like, “Shit, we haven’t rehearsed this. I don’t want to hurt her.”
Trope 7: Hospital Scene In Which Ferrell Finds Out The Baby Is Dead Simply By Wiig Wordlessly Shaking Her Head, At Which Point He Cries With Every Ounce of ACTING In His Body. Seriously, this is the whole-face weep, to the point where you could have told me that Bill Hader was standing in the wings doing Stefan jokes and making Ferrell crack up until he sobbed, and I would have believed it.
Up to this point, it’s all very homage-y. Softly lit outdoor scenes, cheap and cheesy yuks, lots of exposition, trying tricks to make certain things SEEM dramatic and then being very boilerplate about the events that ostensibly ARE. Nothing is truly big enough to feel like a parody except possibly the way Ferrell is crying in the above scene, which Wiig matches by turning away and shaking her head in agony. The scene goes on just long enough that it feels like a joke at the expense of the format, but… quietly.
After the main title slate — the word DEADLY turns red, of course — we get some aerials over a placid lake town. Trope 8: Reliance On Images Of Placid Lake Town That Soon Will Be Turgid With Drama. LIFETIME! Bonus points for fetishizing the water that had already claimed a life before the credits even ran, and for scoring it with a theme song that’s all tinkling piano and Horns of Regret. In fact, Trope 9: Horns of Regret, which are MEGA LIFETIME. It’s not so much parody as ACCURATE. There’s no exaggeration. It might as well just be a regular movie of the week.
Five years later, Ferrell is a successful author, working alone in his home office and chatting by Skype to his agent about things like when he’s turning in his pages, because it’s summer and they want the book out by fall. HA. HA HA HA HA. Pardon me while I laugh at the notion that anyone in publishing is turning around a book that fast, much less over the summer, when the entire industry all but shuts down and hits The Hamptons. Trope 10: Doing No Research About How A Particular Career Works, Because The Inaccuracies Suit The Story Better (this is true of Lifetime and just about every other movie ever, AHEM, Never Been Kissed).
Ferrell, it turns out, is notorious for boozing it up on his book tours until he blacks out, so he’s trying to stay home and stay clean. But of course, he gazes longingly at the whiskey in his desk drawer. This entire movie is about him gazing at things with varying degrees of pomposity and misery. We’re also supposed to think he’s A Changed Man, except he was totally lifeless before and he’s lifeless now. He doesn’t even LOOK like life has dealt him a blow, other than to his eyesight I guess.
Wiig has a food stand that goes by the super catchy name Sarah’s 100% Organic. You’re missing a noun, Sarah. 100% Organic _____. What is it? Food? Shoe leather? Artisanal vacuum cleaners? Please be more specific for anyone who is not looking at your stand and can’t see the baked goods. Sarah Benson is actually a bit like the bizarro version of Wiig’s Bridesmaids character. Still a baker, but low-key to the point of having a flatlining pulse, and living in a tiny town, and not a terrible person. And married to a man who does KIND of look like Chris O’Dowd when he has a beard. I wish Chris O’Dowd could be in this. Nothing against Ferrell; I just generally want Chris O’Dowd in everything.
Please don’t get attached to Wiig’s redheaded friend. She never appears again. Ever. Because Wiig’s character has no inner life. You don’t need a sounding board if you yourself make no sound.
Anyway: It turns out the death of their baby really threw them, and Will has been going out on book tours and distant and such. The answer to this is, clearly, to adopt a baby, which Kristen says will settle things down immediately. Because that’s what tiny babies do. They bring CALM and order and sanity. Right. A baby would also apparently “bring back the old Robert,” which they could also do just by having New Robert get LASIK, but sure, let’s drag an innocent new human into this. Wiig’s friend remembers how Robert always used to do wacky dances around the kitchen to silly music, and I can’t believe I am even typing this, but: That becomes relevant later. I KNOW.
Time to meet the birth mother.
Trope 11: Loudly Whistling Kettle of Warning. HOLA LIFETIME.
The birth mother is 90210’s Jessica Lowndes, decked out in the most innocent outfit possible and alleging she’s six months pregnant, even though she looks bigger than that to me. We get the obligatory wide-eyed moment of greeting with Will Ferrell, and the requisite unattractive khakis on Kristen Wiig, but what really amps up the Lifetime factor is this:
Trope 12: Dropping A Happy Family Photo So That It Shatters Prophetically. LIFETIME! So much Lifetime. Everyone plays this straight, too. I know it’s tricky, because you don’t want to go full camp, and maybe they thought they were aping the earnest tone of a Lifetime movie, but again… it wasn’t enough in either direction. I feel like she should have knocked over like four photos. And then a large naked statue of the family that had been fired in a locally sourced 100% Organic kiln.
Jessica’s name is Bridgette Gibson. She and her eleven-months pregnant stomach had to drop out of college for financial reasons and are living in a shelter. Sad piano. She further notes that she wants a big family someday and would love to give her baby a life this wonderful. She then parents the Bensons’ daughter, Sully, by snapping that she needs her helmet if she’s riding her bike. CORRECT. Why is the psycho the only one concerned about head injuries? We’ve established that Will Ferrell is protective to the point of head-splitting anxiety about everything from Sully’s diabetes to whether she’s ready for a bike, even though it has training wheels — he even screeches to Bridgette later that THE DOCK IS OFF-LIMITS, like, did you not fix that thing after The Tragedy, jerkwad? — and yet he’s totally zen about her scooting around on that thing with nothing protecting her head. The Villain Being The Only One I Even Want To Get A Drink With Later is not really Lifetime as much as it is Annie, though.
So, these two schmucks decide that Bridgette should move into their house until she has the baby, because homeless shelters don’t have marble backsplashes. Then they hug it out, because they’re super awesome and wonderful, even as Will Ferrell gets a dark expression on his face. Trope 13: Essentially Meaningless Facial Changes During An Otherwise Smug-Tender Moment, Just For The Purpose Of Hooking Viewers and Hoodwinking Them Into Thinking This Is Going To Get Mental Soon.
Also very Lifetime: This bandanna. Actually, this is one of the few times in this hour that Wiig is not wearing overalls; clearly they were worried we’d forget she’s part-farmer.
As they show around Bridgette, I need to call bullshit on this prop:
Do people REALLY drink margaritas from straws? I mean, if you’re serving them in a gigantic glass, sure, but those are standard-issue marg glasses. The straws are taller than the bowl is. I wish Bridgette Gibson had snooped around and discovered the room in the basement with the green-screen and all the costumes, which “Bob” and “Sarah” used to create fake photographs demonstrating their fake love to trick Bridgette into giving them her baby. The better Lifetime parody would be if all of them turned out to be Secret Psychopathic Villains, and at the end they have to reconcile that with which of them is supposed to win.
Bridgette tears Kristen Wiig out of a magazine cover photo and lets her fall carelessly to the floor, while Violins of Fomenting Rage get all stressy on us.
Trope 14: Announcing The Villain Via Destruction of Personal Property That You’d Think Someone Would Eventually Notice While Straightening Up The Guest Room Later, But I Guess People In Lifetime Movies Have Self-Cleaning Houses and/or Maids. I also want to point out that Nance Monthly sounds like a newsletter that Nancy Drew puts out, so that everyone knows exactly how much brilliant crime-solving and general meddling she’s doing on behalf of her good-looking and super boyishly handsome father Carson Drew. Who do you think would win in a Boyishly Handsome contest, Carson Drew or Ned Wakefield? And could Nancy Drew, and Bess and George, beat out the Wakefields and Lila and Enid? Yes, they have one more in their posse than Nancy, but one of those people is Enid, so… advantage Team Nancy.
Trope 15: Attractive Newcomer Nobody Really Knows, and Who Does Not Know Them Either, Coming Down For Breakfast In Tiny Shorts. She is all sweetness and light and only wants to drink coffee and eat no foo. Even though everyone is neurotic in this family, neither Will nor Sarah’s 100% Organic Mystery Meats expresses even the slightest concern about the health of the baby. Like, I kept waiting for the caffeine addiction — she even SAYS she can’t function without her coffee — to be a storyline, like, someone’s going to get suspicious about whether she’s actually pregnant. I know people say you can have some caffeine while with child, so no judgment, but I think it’s a pretty small amount, and I was always too paranoid to look into it (because I know myself, and if anything had happened, I would have reached back and closed my hand around that memory and flogged myself with it). You’d think Mr. Don’t Go Near The Dock would be even worse than I was.
Instead, Will proceeds to shit on the women in his life. When Sully asks Bridgette to eat, Will says, “You’d better listen to her — she’s even bossier than her mother.”
Trope 16: Main Character Inexplicably Not Punching Out Her Dumb Husband For Being Insulting To Her Personhood, Her Offpsring, and Allusively, Her Gender. I mean, I think in Lifetime movies, the more common thing would be for the woman to MURDER her husband for this kind of behavior, but the other side of that coin is that if she is NOT murdering, she is tolerating and/or GETTING murdered. So we’re going to count it.
He also, when Bridgette listen to Sully and orders some cereal, says, “Don’t indulge her, or you’ll never hear the end of it.” Except Bridgette needs to EAT, and your daughter needs to feel HEARD, you turdwagon. I don’t recall Lifetime movies being essentially a huge parking lot full of male turdwagons, but then again, it’s been a really long time since I’ve watched one. And there isn’t ENOUGH of this from Will, in anything approaching an interesting way, to make it feel intentional and/or like a commentary on those attitudes. It just plays as stilted dialogue.
Trope 17: Do You Have Any Sunscreen Oh Whoops We’re In This Tiny Pantry Together And Our Bodies Are Sooooo Close.
You also need to know that a) Will and his agent exposit for us that on his last book tour, he got blackout drunk, and is afraid to go out again after that; and b) the best moment of parody YET happened in Will’s little attic. Bridgette interrupts him in her tiny little sundress — the homeless shelter gets great discounts at Forever 21, I guess — to ask for the SPF, and takes in his solitary profession while he takes in her cleavage. She then purrs, “It must get HARD, Robert.” And Will/Robert gulps an says, “Hard? It is. Sometimes.” To which she replies, “Alone. All the time.” It is magical double entendre. This is one of the closest things we get to an imitation of Lifetime dialogue that also has a little comedy and exaggeration built into it.
Trope 18: Main Character Also Not Punching Friends For Implying Her Husband Wants To Bone The Newcomer, Even If We Know Said Friend Is Correct. Seriously, Charlie starts saying Kristen is so brave for leaving Will home alone with Bridgette, and when she points out that Bridgette is hugely pregnant — not even that Will would never do that; just that it’s not practical because there’s no room at the inn or something — Charlie actually notes that this is a turn-on for some men. Then he snarks that Will is probably hiding in his attic, too terrified to talk to her, and everyone laughs. Would a person actually say any of this? If a friend of mine hired a cute babysitter, I would NEVER in my LIFE be like, “Better not leave your husband alone with him! Wait, never mind, he’s too chickenshit to have sex with her so you’re safe!” And then LATER, he bumps into Bridgette in a coffee shop barking something into her cell phone, tells her very seriously that Will Ferrell has a violent temper and has been under police surveillance — before cracking up at her grossed-out expression. Yes, that’s EXACTLY the joke you want to make to the woman whose baby your best friend is trying to adopt. HILARIOUS. Shut up, Charlie. Trope 19: People Needing To Shut Up. I assume.
Back at the ranch:
Trope 20: Hot Female Sunning Herself While Her Bosom Heaves. Naturally, Will stumbles upon her, and naturally, nearly passes out. I would like to note that this movie is terrible. I mean, obviously, we know this. But the only demonstrable crack in his union to Kristen is that both of them are terminally boring, and that he’s haunted by The Dock. HE WILL NEVER FORGET THE DOCK. So he shifted awfully quickly to wanting to motorboat the new girl.
Dinner is a pleasant and self-congratulatory affair, at which Bridgette sucks up to the family about how great they are and how much stuff they have and what a wonderful town Storm Lake is. Trope 21: Main Character Swims In Unironic Self-Satisfaction While Being Told Her Life Is Perfect, Then Reassuring Hot Young Birth Mother That Someday Maybe She Will Be This Perfect Too.
Trope 22: Hot Young Birth Mother Gives Sweet Reply Which Actually Implies She Is Going To Steal The Shit Out Of This Perfect Life You Dumb Sucker.
Trope 23: Pan Over From Sleeping Child To Reflection of Psycho. There is a wonderful cymbal crash on this that is so LIFETIME!! in the best way. Again, I feel like we needed a whole collection of these for it to feel winking, but the music did help. I actually laughed when we got to Bridgette’s face in the photo frame.
Later, Bridgette has taken it upon herself to remove Sully’s training wheels and teach her to ride a bike. She pushes her down the driveway toward the street, then screeches at her not to go into the street, at which point Sully magically turns to avoid an oncoming car — a Lifetimey fake-out; Trope 24: Near-Death Experiences Involving Children — and runs smack into Trope 25: The Loose Cannon Boyfriend From The Wrong Side of the Tracks.
He of course rubs Bridgette’s 14-months-pregnant belly and makes veiled statements about the baby, and she actually says, “You were supposed to wait at the cabin,” before successfully convincing Sully that none of this means anything and she shouldn’t tell her parents or else they’ll take away her bike. Sully is supposed to be six, but she plays as eight or nine, way too old to be this easily manipulated. I mean, my kids ARE six, and if you tell them not to spill a secret, it just means they keep it to themselves for five minutes, or loudly tell each OTHER but in front of me. Six-year olds are not subtle.
Bridgette and her 19-months-pregnant stomach joins Will Ferrell on his daily Traumatic Flashback Wherein He Will Never Forget The Dock, and he admits that he blames Kristen Wiig for the accident and may never love her the same way again. Then he grins that he’s never said that out loud before, and starts gazing into middle distance with the satisfaction of a man who finally feels understood and fully expects to grow up into a Dos Equis drinker: “His dock only rotted because it felt inadequate.” “His wife’s vegetables grow because he asked them to.” Babies adopt him.”
And then, Bridgette warps time and space. She goes from sitting next to The Most Interesting Bland In The World…
… to having a loud argument with Tattooed Bully, full of wild gesticulations that demand to be noticed, in the middle of Main Street in this very small town. I don’t know how she got there so fast, without anyone knowing. (In the earlier scene where she runs into Charlie at the coffee house, she had ALSO moments earlier been at the house, and teleported herself to town.) Bridgette is TERRIBLE AT THIS, then. You are already the only 23-months pregnant person in all of Contrivance Lake. WHY are you yelling at your co-conspirator in full view of everyone, and why is Charlie the only person who sees it, and why does Charlie not mention it to Kristen? His lips are plenty loose when he’s using them to barf words all over her life choices. Also, Tattooed Bully clearly knows how to keep a vintage truck in great working order and in mint condition, so he’s probably not this stupid EITHER. Trope 26: Villains Who Are Just So Bad At Villainy (But Get Away With It For Longer Than Is Usual Because Everyone Else Is Bad At Being Alive).
Because we need another really boring argument between Kristen Wiig and Will Ferrell. I cannot convey to you how little passion, verve, or energy these two put into their scenes. Much in the vein of what I said earlier about this: If what you’re parodying is quiet boringness, then all you’re going to end up with more quiet boringness. Where are the histrionics? The music stings? The gasps? Heads whipping around in shock?
However, we do get a moment of wonderfulness that is fairly subtle in its way. Will is carping at Kristen because, while he was in the pantry drizzling saliva on Bridgette Gibson’s maternity melons, he noticed a box of chocolates in there. And he’s scared Sully will eat them, because he doesn’t trust her to do anything (except apparently not wear a helmet). Kristen is chill about it, but then Will scolds her acidly, “YOU know the dangers of DIABETIC KETOACIDOSIS!!!” This is seriously the most dramatic line and line-reading we’ve had so far, and I did laugh out loud at that. It had to be intentional. Right? I need MORE panties wadded over the minutiae of diabetes, please. (I’m not trying to downplay diabetes, either. It’s just a totally undramatic disease to pick for a Lifetime movie, and that line underscores that fact, and therefore makes it perfect.)
Trope 27: Whoops, The Villain Didn’t Check To See If The Bathroom Door Closed Properly.
Trope 28: The Curious Child Calls Out Once For The Villain, Hears The Shower, Then Creeps Silently and Slowly Toward The Bathroom As If She Is A Total Pervy Predator Until She Is Staring Through The Gap In The Door. My kids have stormed into my room while I’m in the shower, and it is NEVER this stealth. It’s screaming at the top of their lungs, throwing open doors, bursting in loudly. This plays like Sully was like, “OOOH, a free PEEP SHOW,” or as if she had never heard the sound of a shower before and thought perhaps a giant snake was having a tea party in the tub.
Trope 29: Fake Pregnancy. All 29 months of it. I am unclear how nobody noticed the lack of doctor appointments or baby kicks, but whatever. We’ve discussed that not one of these people is good at life.
Sully, of course, gets duped by Bridgette again. She claims her pregnancy belly is just really small and she’s afraid no one will believe it, so she wears padding over it. Then she goes ahead and kidnaps Sully via lying individually to each parent about where she’s taking her, thereby blowing her whole scheme to smithereens. We are an hour into this movie, and already we’re at Defcon Smithereens, WITHOUT ANYTHING INTERESTING HAPPENING and glacial pacing. Trope 30: Making People Wonder Why They Haven’t Changed The Channel Yet Because Shouldn’t This Have Gotten Good By Now?
Indeed, Will twigs to something being off for no reason at all. He just sits there pleasantly pleasanting in his office, when he reflects on Bridgette seeming cranky (I guess) when telling him that she and Sully were going to meet Kristen at Sarah’s 100% Organic. “But… organic what?” he thinks. Then, a jolt. “Organic MISCHIEF?” So he goes up into Bridgette’s room, touches a bunch of her things inappropriately, and then finds his own book. And the dust jacket is a marvel, y’all.
It’s hard to see, so I will transcribe: It praises the font and charts for being readable and not confusing; it gets an A+ from Books.com but only an A from Books.net (escandelo!); and it says, and I quote directly, with a big ol’ [sic]:
“If you are going to read a
book on finance for people who don’t go there f
requently, this is the book.”
It’s like a haiku written by someone who thinks the rhythm is 7-12-7. Also, the blurb at the bottom is, for real, “I don’t hate this book.” — Miles Kilometer, Finance Magazine. I am in love with the props person who put this together. Miles Kilometer is fantastic and his blurb is beautiful.
NOT GREAT, BOB. What would Miles Kilometer say? You are a writer. Use capital letters and punctuation correctly. At the sight of the name Joni, Will suddenly goes into a fugue state and remembers back to his most recent book tour – you know, the one where the got blackout drunk.
And this is exactly what all book tours are like. Authors, especially of dry finance books, show up at bars and are immediately swarmed by people who treat them like rock stars and buy them drinks and who all conveniently bring their books to the club. There is never a moment’s peace from the boozing and the strangers who carry your book about debt in their purses. This scene might as well be a documentary. And naturally, Will remembers banging this Joni person and then feeling lousy about it later. So he freaks out and goes looking for Sully, who is missing.
Trope 31: Infrequent Ill-Use Of A Recognizable Guest Star, in this case, the erstwhile Dr. Dave Malluci from ER (Erik Palladino). Erik has two scenes. In this one, he interviews Will and Kristen about Bridgette and Sully, then produces a photo of Bridgette Gibson from the agency. And GUESS WHAT. It’s not the same person. Wiig and Ferrell are super confused, so Erik stands up and racks his brain until pea soup trickles out his ear. “Is there any possibility,” he says, fumbling for the answer, “that the woman who’s been living here… IS NOT BRIDGETTE GIBSON?” Trope 32: Oh COME ON, Officer Obvious, Of Course There Is, You Don’t Need To Spell This Out For Us. Even The Wares At Sarah’s 100% Organic Postage Stamps Connected Those Dots.
I wish this photo weren’t terrible. It’s the moment where Bridgette/Joni decides to return to her true essence by putting in silver clip-in extensions. She has Sully at their lake cabin and tells Tattooed Bully that she’ll blackmail Will for some money. Easy peasy. I am unclear why she is still wearing the belly at this point, given that the jig is up. Maybe it’s just comfortable. I mean, think of the snacks.
Will gazes plaintively at his kid before telling Kristen the truth. He says, “When we lost the baby, I went crazy, and said yes to every book tour…. I drank every night out on the road, because I hated myself. I hated everything. I hated you for falling that day.” Then he confesses to banging Joni. It’s all eerily without emotion. It’s SUCH a cheesy speech and it could be wonderfully overacted, but no.
Kristen’s response, however, is to blink a lot before bursting out with, “Why didn’t you just talk to me? Don’t I matter?” It’s so deliciously Jessica Wakefield. She also doesn’t care that much that he cheated on her, but she IS mad that he endangered their child, even though one of those actions was a choice and the other was an unforeseen consequence. She SHOULD be mad at him for cheating. Instead, she flounces off after wailing an afterthought about him endangering their child. This is about the most juvenile sequence ever, and it comes CLOSE to scratching the surface of something pointed about how idiotic people often are in these movies. What occurred to me here, though, is that this movie is the longest period of time in which I have EVER witnessed Kristen Wiig playing something straight.
Trope 33: The Only People Watching Lifetime Are Also Incontinent, So We’d Better Advertise Our New Depends With A Really Intense Close-Up Shot.
Trope 34: Money-Grubbing Criminal Loons All Dress Like Billy Idol Groupies. Sully is skeptical of what’s happening, but Bridgette/Joni feeds her yet another line about how it’s all going to be fine, and Sully manages not to notice that her captor is no longer 34-months pregnant with a hypo-allergenic pillow. Then BrigetteJoni remembers Sully is diabetic, and tells her boyfriend that they need to get her medicine or she’ll die. The boyfriend says his brother is diabetic and all they need to do is feed Sully some candy and she’ll be right as rain. Trope 35: THE SMOKING GUN IS THE DIABETIC KETOACIDOSIS! Except, really, the smoking gun is all the smoking guns that will be in play later, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Will Ferrell is Googling, because I guess that’s going to make him feel proactive about his missing child. Somehow, he has figured out that Joni’s last name is Mathers, so he’s searching on her. But if you look at his search history, he has ALREADY searched for her name several times. Also, they had him type in “Bridgette Simpson” instead of “Bridgette Gibson,” and “Ellen Tracy” instead of “Ellen Macy” (the adoption agent). Somebody did not proofread this shot. MOVIE RUINED. Miles Kilometer is going to be furious. He expected more.
Charlie FINALLY sees Rogue Boyfriend in town buying Diabetic Ketoacidosis Bait. Trope 36: Someone Impulsively Follows The Bad Guy And Doesn’t Call Anyone To Tell Them What He’s Doing Until He’s Well Out of Cell Range. Also, Trope 37: While Snooping Poorly, He Steps On A Twig. And then, Trope 38: He Unhelpfully Tells The Criminals That Everyone Is Totally Onto Them And Hunting Them Down, Because Giving Bad People Information That Might Make Them Flee Is Such A Great Idea; Trope 39: He Gets Seriously Murdered; and Trope 40: We Cut To An Overhead Of Water When The Gun Goes Off, And It Frightens A Flock Of Birds. It’s Trope City up in here. That’s a quintfecta of tropes, and yes, I mistyped “tripes” at first, and YES, that typo is totally apt.
Next is an amazing music montage of forlorn Missing flyers about Sully. They blow in the wind, they flicker forgotten on lampposts, and — best of all — a dog contemplates eating one. You KNOW someone was like, “Dude, we have to find a way to work in a sad dog. America loves sad dogs.” Trope 41: Sad Dog.
Trope 42: Asshat Boyfriend Realizes His Girl Might Double-Cross Him And Gets Jealous. He hears her talking to Sully like they’ll be raising her, and worries that she’s after Will Ferrell: “This was always about HIM!” It’s a scene that basically exists just for the promo reel, because her actual feelings for Will Ferrell are never particularly clear.
The real hero of this movie is the old dude who is packing up at the docks. “I’ll only be an hour,” Joni/Bridgette pleads. He consents. AN HOUR, though. That’s a long time for him to sit around waiting for you to return your boat of lies.
But I did get a laugh when they made a huge point of showing Jessica Lowndes clambering out of a canoe in killer Wicked Witch boots. Trope 43: Villains Dressing Inappropriately For Their Mischief (And Me Secretly Digging Them For It).
Trope 44: Villain Pops Up In Front Of Someone Unexpectedly. Her plan was supposed to be, go in, get medicine, get out. Instead, Bridgette/Joni knocks menacingly on the hood of Kristen Wiig’s car while Wiig is emptily contemplating the failure of her fliers to entice anyone except sad dogs. We have learned that Ellen Tracy-Macy is dead — so whether she was in on it or not is not clear — and that she hates Kristen Wiig. And finally, we get a little bit of parody here, wherein Jessica Lowndes gets to deliver her evil monologue while rubbing her gun all over Kristen Wiig’s face.
It lasts forever, and it’s not INSANE — she doesn’t, like, rub it up her nose or anything; she just keeps tracing Wiig’s neck and jaw and then jabbing it and twisting it. Look, if you want genre parody done PERFECTLY, please watch Renee Zellweger’s big revelatory speech in Down With Love. This cannot even hold a candle to that. It is TRYING, and I respect that, but like, your candle blew out long before Renee’s legend ever did.
Oh, and the backstory we learn is: JoniBridgette got pregnant from her one-nighter with Will, but lost the baby, and then got irate when she saw Will on TV with his family, or something? I have no idea WHEN this Book Tour of Hedonism supposedly happened, but the ensuing events really twerked her nubbin, and now she’s out to steal Kristen Wiig’s family.
She further purrs, “I never liked you. With your STUPID FRUIT STAND and organic vegetables.” Using health food as a taunt is funny to me, but she should also be careful about where she waves that petard, because she might find herself hoisted upon it.
Trope 45: Petard-Hoisting. Yes, that’s right, the VERY FRUITS AND VEGETABLES she recently maligned now come crashing down on her head. DEATH BY PRODUCE. It’s Sarah’s 100% Organic Whoop-Ass. Except Joni is totally alive, and merely disarmed. There’s a long mutual choking, which ends when Joni punches out Kristen and drags her unconscious body into the car.
Trope 46: Potential Carbon Monoxide Poisoning. If it hasn’t been done, someone ought to be hard at work on a Wikipedia page chronicling the number of movies and TV shows on which someone has committed fake-suicide via vehicular gassing.
But, all this time, whither the object of Joni’s lust?
Here. IN THAT OUTFIT. Trope 47: THAT OUTFIT. Probably. I’m sure there are all kinds of Lifetime movies where the ostensibly desirable man is dressed like a science teacher who had to take over gym class for two weeks and is in WAY over his head.
Jessica Lowndes pulls a gun on everyone in this movie, by the way. It would be funnier if it happened more fast-and-furious. Or if the movie weren’t so meticulous about trying to account for all these guns and where people are getting them. It should just be a festival of randomly appearing guns, drawn out of thin air.
Will is lukewarm and lacking in any urgency as he takes the phone and calls… the sheriff. Not 911, which could trace the call. Not any kind of emergency service. The sheriff. Where he gets the receptionist, and has to ask for the person he wants to talk to, and… again, this would play for laughs if they strung it along a bit longer, but it’s all over here when she shoots him in the arm. Sadly, unlike his Austin Powers character, he does not say, “You shot me! You shot me right in the ARM.” Instead, he slow-motion leaps at her and she shoots him again in the shoulder and he passes out. She apologizes weepily to his body, and flees without checking to see if he or Kristen is dead yet. Trope 48: Not Checking To See If You Are Even Any Good At Murdering. Girl, you need to shore up a talent. Although I guess all your good references on this one are dead, and you’re never going to get a glowing murder recommendation out of someone who lives, so.
This shot of Will was great, though. They poured blood through that bullethole like water from a pitcher.
She looks a lot like Jessica Pare in this shot. I wish Megan Draper had gone out this way. This time, she plugs her boyfriend in the gut and takes Sully. Of course, the boyfriend made the mistake of calling her a crazy whore. Trope 49: Someone Who Knows Better Poking The Crazy Anyway. Bridgette/Joni then tells Sully that both her parents are dead. “I’m your new mom now,” she says. This never works. In fairness, though, Sully is incredibly malleable, so it’s worth a try. By the way, if you’re tracking Defcon Diabetic Ketoacidosis, Sully’s stomach hurts. It’s real intense.
Trope 50: Jane Krakowski.
Trope 51: Nobody Is Actually Dead. Not the boyfriend, whom the cops find and arrest, and not that bottle of Trop 50, and not Will and Kristen.
Slowly, the garage door rolls up, and up, and up, and Will triumphantly carries Kristen out of the polluted garage. They then have a long discussion about how he screwed up his life and he loves them and and he’s going to rescue Sully. But since JoniBridgette isn’t going back into town anytime soon, there’s only one way he can get to her: the bridge. Kristen Wiig is like, “NO, NOT THE BRIDGE. YOU CAN’T.” Guys, it’s the DOCK he was afraid of, not the actual BOAT ITSELF. And I feel really cheated out of a scene where he sets a tremulous foot on that dock and then has to overcome his paralyzing fear of weathered wood planks. Seriously. Where is that scene? THAT IS YOUR WHOLE MOVIE. That would be the cheese sauce to drizzle over this cold enchilada.
Although this is pretty good:
It’s in this moment that I realized I want Ioan Gruffudd to have been in this movie.
And it’s at THIS moment that I mentally replayed the entire movie but as if Will Ferrell were once again playing Dubya.
Trope 52: The Thing He Has To Do To Rescue His Kid Is Totally Lame And Not That Hard. Behold how our hero powers his motorized craft over totally calm waters! Watch as he’s required to execute zero turns or complicated parking maneuvers! Watch as he gets out with ease and calmly climbs up a gentle slope to the road! The music playing here has a Princess Bride quality to it, like when Westley jauntily made his way past all of Vizzini’s men and dashed off to the next challenge. That is also the last time these two films will be mentioned in the same basic place. Miles Kilometer will hate that I did it even once.
Don’t ask me how Will figured out that simply GETTING to this bridge would solve all his problems. In fact, this is a deeply flawed plan. Because, once he gets up there, all he does is STAND STILL AND WAIT. What does he think he’s going to do? SNIFF the car’s location? AND YET. Trope 53: The Deeply Flawed Plan Works Anyway.
About two seconds later, Contrivance steers the Ford into his path, and Bridgette/Joni plans to run him over, but Sully grabs the wheel and crashes them… into a barrier. This is where the car should have careened off into the water, forcing Will to confront YET ANOTHER watery fear of his, but no. There isn’t even any leaking fuel to ignite. The car just hisses a little and Joni’s head thumps the steering wheel.
Trope 54: The Kid Is Inexplicably Fine And Her Diabetic Ketoacidosis Is Really Rather Manageable Actually Although Dad Brought Insulin In The Boat Because He’s A Super Parent.
Trope 55: Seriously, Will Someone EVER Check On Whether A Person Is Really Most Sincerely Dead?
While she monologues, Will pretends to fork over Sully, but in actuality whispers a plan at her. Sully slowly steps toward her new mother, who is still waving a wobbly pistol in everyone’s faces but inexplicably has not fired it even though she could TOTALLY take a clear shot at this point without hurting the kid. And then Sully makes a break for it, and in slow-motion we watch as everyone whips their heads around and watches her hurtle over the bridge.
Don’t worry. She’s aquatic.
So is Will, who follows suit — without injury to himself at the hands of the insane shooter who is, insanely, not choosing to shoot.
Then he sits there trying to start the motor, using the girl as a human shield…
… while Bridgette/Joni takes AN ETERNITY to consider firing a shot at them despite AGAIN having a totally open one. She could also shoot the boat’s motor or something. I don’t know. Get creative, Bridgette, if you want ANY references on your resume. Trope 56: Trigger-Happy Villain Suddenly Takes No Shots At Anything In A Timely Manner, Which Will Be Her Undoing.
BOOM! Bitch goes down (tm Scream). Kristen Wiig has picked up the gun that Lowndes pointedly left in their house — sigh — and shoots Joni in the shoulder.
In a totally delicious slow-motion shot, we cut back to this visual of Joni going over the side. It’s… sublime and ridiculous and makes me wistful for what might have been.
I guess JoniBridgette then dies of her shoulder wound in the Lake of Doom. Never mind that Will Ferrell currently has TWO bullets in him and is totally fine. Trope 57: The Hero Survives Things That Would Kill Anyone Else, Or At Least Maim Them To The Point Where They Can’t Do Any Rescuing of Anything.
And, Trope 58: Six Months Later, And LOOK WHO’S BACK! Old Robert!
If you think that face says, “Hark, I hear some crazy instrumental music on the wireless, LET’S DANCE,” then you are RIGHT.
Trope 59: Well Well Well, Look Who’s Totally Boneable Again.
Trope 60: It Totally Only Took Six Months For Things To Get Back To Normal. Trope 61 would have been the reveal that Wiig is pregnant with their next second chance at having a child who doesn’t keep mum about psychotic baby-mamas and pregnancy pillows, but that didn’t happen. I cannot believe they stopped short of that, but instead delivered a THREE MINUTE SCENE of the family dancing together like complete goofballs.
In sum: LIFETIME! It was a whole LOT of Lifetime, but not in any of the ways I had hoped.
Fuggery: 7. Wiig’s overalls are bad, but her striped t-shirts are great. Lowndes’s sundresses are perfunctory. And the HOODIE OUTFIT. Oh, Will Ferrell.
Fromage: 3. This was really low on fun, with hardly any plot twists, and high on BORING. What wanted to be cheesy could have been WAY cheesier, and what wasn’t was simply bland.
F*ckwittery: 9. For the characters being imbeciles, but also for the fact that these two parodying a Lifetime movie had SO MUCH POTENTIAL and I cannot for the life of me figure out where it all went south. Was it not MEANT to be a parody? Was it not working as a parody, so they gave up and played it straight? Did they really can this, as they claimed on April Fool’s Day, and then decide to go ahead and film it in a hurry when it got so much press? Did they GENUINELY intend to can it for good and then Lifetime overruled them once it got all that attention? If this is what they wanted out of this impulse, then… I call it totally f*ckwitted and a wasted chance for affectionate mockery. When you have nothing to add to the discussion, sometimes it really is okay to keep quiet and wait for a better moment.