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Baby Bummer

ON SCREEN:

By Gary L. Susman

Baby Boom

Written by Charles Shyer and Nancy Meyers

Directed by Charles Shyer

At the USA Cheri

THE QUESTION for women of career vs. family has been hashed and rehashed enough to deforest the entire Pacific Northwest. Now Hollywood has thrown in its two cents with Baby Boom, ostensibly a social satire that turns serious every once in a while in order to shed some light on this question. Unfortunately, Baby Boom is neither illuminating nor terribly funny.

Baby Boom has a made-for-TV premise: J.C. Wiatt (Diane Keaton), a totally career-minded yuppie executive, finds herself saddled with an unwanted baby, hence the title (Get it? Yuppies, babies . . .). Baby Elizabeth literally drops into J.C.'s lap without the messy inconveniences of pregnancy or the question of abortion; she inherits the child from a long-lost relative.

Of course, J.C. is not at all suited for motherhood (if she were, there'd be no picture), and there are some mildly amusing slapstick scenes in which she tries to feed the baby spaghetti and meat sauce and to change the baby's diaper. Eventually, though, J.C.'s maternal instincts begin to emerge when she decides not to give Elizabeth up for adoption--not a difficult decision, considering the frighteningly sober Minnesota hicks who want to adopt her. As J.C. tells Stephen (Harold Ramis), her yuppie love, she can't give up Elizabeth to a future of "frosted lipstick and Dairy Queen uniforms."

Herein lies one of the main problems with Baby Boom: it is filled with pejorative stereotypes. Granted, satire should use a broad brush, but the characters in this movie are simply not to be believed. Besides the Minnesota couple, there is a town full of crusty Vermonters who say little more than "Yup" and "Nope."

The New York City yuppies fare no better. J.C. and Stephen spend all night in bed--working on business, though they take four minutes out of their busy schedules to have sex. When commitment-shy Stephen finds that J.C. plans to keep Elizabeth, he skips out immediately.

NOW J.C. faces the Big Test: can she raise a child and have a career at the same time, without a man in her life? Can she keep up with clients and ambitious underlings and still have time to find a trustworthy nanny and to work on getting her child into the "right" preschool? As it often does, Baby Boom offers a pat and unsurprising answer--"Nope."

J.C. finds herself in bucolic unemployment in Vermont and soon in the arms of Jeff Cooper (Sam Shepard), who accurately describes himself as "the only man in town under 60." Shepard spends his screen time looking befuddled, as if to ask, "Was there any reason I was cast in this film, other than that I am the only man in Hollywood with teeth as bad as Diane Keaton's?"

Most of the other performances are equally perfunctory. Kristina and Michelle Kennedy, the twins who play Elizabeth, are cute, but they look too old to be a convincing one-year-old. Keaton's is the only performance that displays emotion above and beyond the call of duty, but then hers is the only character who is not a complete caricature.

Keaton's performance and a handful of funny lines are not enough, however, to save Baby Boom from its insubstantiality. If it weren't for the bitter aftertaste of the movie's fatuous treatment of an important question or its vitriolic stereotyping, Baby Boom would be completely forgettable.

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