by ED SYMKUS & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & here's only one proper way to begin here: with some thoughts about Tina Fey. I have no idea what women think of the former Saturday Night Live regular. But I asked a lot of guys for a few words, and they all agree with me: beautiful, classy, funny.

Why, oh why, though, would she pick this dog of a movie for her first starring role? The supposedly comic subject isn't very funny: infertile single woman is desperate for a child, doesn't want to wait for adoption, and goes the surrogate mother route.

Her character is supposed to be a sharp businesswoman, but she comes across as lacking in common sense.

Her castmates have been allowed to shamelessly overact: Amy Poehler, as the surrogate, starts off appearing stupid, but eventually shows a mean-spirited side. She's a heartless, conniving ne'er-do-well who's only in it for the money. Dax Shepard, as her common law husband, simply repeats the mindless role he played in Idiocracy. (There he was funny, this time he's creepy.). Romany Malco, who was so good in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, plays Oscar the doorman and is content to let his eyes bug out for laughs, the way black actors did in Three Stooges films. I'm not even going to bother with the unsavory -- and unfunny -- character played by Sigourney Weaver.

The title refers to a woman who gets paid to have another woman's child. Which is how Fey's Kate meets Poehler's Angie, who shares an ongoing argumentative relationship with Shepard's Carl. Any person watching this film, no matter if they're a Nobel Prize winner or a train-hopping hobo, will know from the moment of their appearance that Angie and Carl are fine, upstanding examples of white trash. That Kate immediately chooses Angie to bring her child into the world is a piece of scripting that still has me scratching my head. Even that hobo would've known to show these two people the door, no further questions, thank you!

But before you can say "bun in the oven", there go Kate's fertilized eggs into Angie's womb, after which the script introduces every bad habit a pregnant woman could have, from drinking to smoking to eating junk food, each one of them a regular part of Angie's life. This is not... exactly... funny.

The filmmakers try to temper all of this with cute little segments, most of them revolving around Kate's family life. It doesn't work. Her mom (Holland Taylor) is a busybody who relishes annoying Kate. Her sister (Maura Tierney) has kids galore, but has no control over them. She thinks it's adorable that her 4-year-old daughter is demanding her own cell phone.

But the film keeps coming back to the relationship developing between Kate and Angie (who has decided to move into Kate's apartment and wreck the joint). It's in these scenes that the term "bathroom humor" literally comes alive, and it must have been as embarrassing to act out as it is to watch.

There are a few solid moments of humor when things turn to discussions of vegans versus carnivores, and the ridiculous names that some parents give their children. And the pointed (but not mean-spirited) digs aimed at Wiccans all hit the mark. But any of that positive stuff vanishes when the director forgets to tell his actors what to do, often leaving them standing around at the ends of scenes or at punchlines, looking like they're waiting to hear a reaction from the audience.

Two performances do manage to get by unscathed. Greg Kinnear gives his standard slightly vanilla routine as a nice guy who might or might not become a romantic interest for Kate. And Steve Martin is terrific as the pompous owner of a chain of health food stores, who likes to refer to himself as "a great man who does many great things."

Late in the film, just as in so many other comedies these days, it all gets serious and gloomy for a few beats, then goes back to trying for a few laughs. But before everything gets very complicated, then grinds to a halt with a quick and convenient ending, the filmmakers deliver the reckless message that it's OK to go out and have unprotected sex with a total stranger. If this was all in hopes of another laugh, it didn't work. This is one comedy that made me angry.

Palouse Cult Film Revival: Little Shop of Horrors @ The Kenworthy

Wed., Feb. 8, 7:30-9:30 p.m.
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