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A Deadly Adoption June 22, 2015

Posted by Rusty in Uncategorized.
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I am torn about this. On one hand, it’s great that two bankable A-list comedic actors can play it straight and prove that Lifetime movies are funny, wonderful things without (almost) skidding into satire or spoof. On the other hand, isn’t this all a little insulting? The meta-joke only works because the actors involved are “better” than the material. Better in terms of Q-Score? Sure. But better in terms of talent? I dunno. Mom at Sixteen may be a turd, but Mercedes Ruehl has more Oscars than every Saturday Night Live alumnus combined.

The problem here is that the goal was to recreate. And it was such a good recreation (except for two missteps) that the movie didn’t end up any better or any worse than your average Lifetime jam.

That's a pretty good tag.

That’s a pretty good tag.

The movie opens with a party being thrown by the Bensons: Financial author Robert, pregnant organic baker Sarah, and diabetic baby Sully. They’re the perfect family! And they have a beautiful Craftsman on a lake! Unfortunately, the structural integrity of their dock was decidedly not perfect. Sarah falls off the dock and hits her head. She loses the baby.

Five years later, there are cracks in their domestic bliss. Robert has given up drinking and refuses to do a book tour for his most recent book. Too many demons on the road! Robert is also overprotective of Sully, now six. Sully suffers from diabetes and Robert is constantly monitoring her sugar intake (“Chekhov’s Insulin”). He won’t even let Sully ride a bike without training wheels! No one has moved past the devastation of the miscarriage. So, obviously, it’s time to adopt.

The adoption agency introduces the Bensons to Bridget. Bridget is six months pregnant and is living in a homeless shelter. She recently dropped out of college because one of Robert’s books advised her not to accumulate too much debt. The Bensons immediately invite Bridget to live with them during the remainder of the pregnancy. According to the adoption lady (who we are about to learn is very bad at her job), this is a common arrangement.

As soon as Bridget moves in, she’s making moves on Robert. Sunbathing, come hither looks, even going so far as to HIDE SUNSCREEN so Robert will have to reach over her to retrieve it. Seduction 101. Bridget is also texting a mystery man and is seen around town by one of Sarah’s employees with a tattooed dirtbag in a vintage pickup truck. The dirtbag isn’t all terrible. He pulls Sully out of traffic when Bridget lets her ride around without training wheels.

But some secrets are too big to keep. Sully is peeping on Bridget in the shower and notices that she isn’t really pregnant. So Bridget and Dirtbag kidnap Sully and hole up in a cabin. Guess what blood sugar regulating drug they forget to bring with them!

Robert is the first to catch on that something is awry and goes rifling through Bridget’s things. He finds a copy of one his books and notices that he signed it on one of his bacchanalian book tours. And he signed Bridget. With his wang. (Bonetown.)

The Bensons call the cops and it turns out that “Bridget” killed the real pregnant Bridget. This “Bridget” is actually Jodi. And since there’s a murder, the adoption officially qualifies as deadly. That and one of Sarah’s employee recognized Dirtbag buying candy bars (their insulin replacement) and he followed him back to the cabin. He gets shot in the face for his troubles. Double deadly.

Dirtbag murdered two people so it’s hard to feel too sorry for him, but he’s getting played, too. He’s thinking they kidnapped Sully for ransom. Nope. Jodi is planning on leveraging her possession of Sully into starting a life with Robert. She rents a boat, motors down to the Bensons, and knocks out Sarah and places her in a closed garage with the car running. Robert isn’t so keen on starting that life together so she shoots him twice in the shoulder/arm. When she runs back to the cabin (“Ugh, I forgot the insulin again!”), she shoots Dirtbag in the stomach and gets ready to make a run for it.

Robert jumps in his own boat and just beats Jodi to the only bridge out of town. There’s a brief standoff, but Sully and Robert get away via the unconventional method of jumping off the bridge. Jodi aims her pistol at them but is shot in the back by Sarah.

The film’s last scene is its worst. The family gathers in the kitchen and sings together. It’s stupid. Oh, and there’s a

AWESOMENESS (out of 20): 13

There was a lot to like here. The actress who played Bridget/Jodi was fantastic. Turns out she’s from Canada. Lifetime is in her blood. The movie was funny without bringing too much attention to itself. “When we lost the baby, I went crazy. I said yes to every book tour.” “I found an unopened box of chocolates today. Come on, Sarah, you know the dangers of diabetic ketoacidosis!” Very good.

Of course, like every other Lifetime movie, the film flagged in the middle and the ending took 20 minutes longer than really necessary. But, if you’re going for a recreation, it’s pretty impressive to be able to ape the structual weaknesses.

HEY! IT’S THAT GUY! (out of 10): n/a

Nope, not doing it. The idea of this movie blows the rating scale to smithereens. No points for Ferrell or Wiig. However, I was impressed that Dirtbag was reprising his role as Dirtbag in It Follows.

LIFETIMENESS (out of 20): 16

Here we go. The movie was so close to perfect. The opening credits using a boring white font over helicopter footage of Vancouverish, Canada. Scenes were slightly off-center and many shots held on for one beat too long. Dirtbag’s vintage pickup truck was the perfect detail for a Lifetime baddie. The cereal was generic off brand. People walked around with coffee cups that were obviously empty. When Sully wasn’t allowed to ride a bike, you knew the last scene would have the overprotective parent loosening up and Sully on two wheels. And I was ecstatic that there were so many boats. It’s Lifetime! There’s always a boat. But…

First, having Kristen Wiig fall off a dock after 45 seconds foreshadowing her falling off a dock was too much, especially in the first scene of the movie. I had no idea going in if they were going to play it straight, and I still didn’t know after that scene. It was goofier than almost anything else on Lifetime, and my favorite Lifetime movie features bigamy and amnesia.

Second, Ferrell and Wiig didn’t have what it takes for Lifetime. There was an undercurrent of parody in their performances, like they weren’t trying their hardest because Lifetime movies are poorly acted. But, as mentioned before, that’s a little insulting, isn’t it? The actors in those movies are trying their damnedest, but they either don’t have the talent or, more likely, it’s hard to stand out as a good actor in a low-budget tv movie factory. Ferrell actually did ok since his material was so self-serious (both of the lines of dialogue I quoted were from him), but Wiig was lost. And both SNL alums were powerhoused by a Canadian CW actress who is listed as a singer-songwriter on Facebook. If you don’t respect the Lifetime, it will chew you up and spit you out.

Finally, the last scene. Just a family dancing and singing for 45 seconds. It’s the only time they didn’t have the guts to play it straight and the entire movie suffers as a result. It was a last-stab “have it both ways” move in case the playing it straight route didn’t work. That’s a shame because the playing it straight route mostly worked!

GRAND TOTAL: 29

Pretty good! I am happy I watched it. I am happy it exists, even if it only means more people paying attention to Lifetime. And it’s nice to have my tastes cosigned by comedic actors with the chops of Ferrell and Wiig. Lifetime movies are funny not because we laugh at them, but because we laugh with them. We laugh with the twists, the accidents, and the directing choices. We laugh with the sound editing and the plot’s reliance on boating. Lifetime is great. I should watch it more often.

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