Review: Hell Baby (Sundance 2013)
PLOT: Jack (Rob Corddry) and Vanessa (Leslie Bibb) are an expectant couple, who move into an infamously cursed house in a run-down section of New Orleans. Within days, Vanessa starts acting strangely, and Jack becomes convinced she's somehow possessed. Meanwhile, two Vatican exorcists (Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant) come to New Orleans to avert the birth of the anti-christ, who just might be the very child Vanessa is carrying.
REVIEW: Laugh-a-minute spoofs are a difficult thing to pull off. At their best, you get movies like BLAZING SADDLES and AIRPLANE. At their worst- well, we've gotten a ton of them lately, thanks to movies like A HAUNTED HOUSE, or the oeuvre of Friedberg/ Selzer (EPIC MOVIE, DATE MOVIE, etc.) One thing I'll give HELL BABY- it's much better than anything by Friedberg- Selzer, or the SCARY MOVIE series- but it's still not that good a film.
Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant- who were behind RENO 911, are famous for their screenplays for big Hollywood comedies like NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM. To say their critical reception has been cool is an understatement, but on their own the two always struck me as funny so I was keen to see a movie they directed themselves.
Sure enough- HELL BABY does indeed have it's moments. Lennon and Garant are really funny as the two over-the-top Vatican exorcists, who smoke constantly, hit strip clubs, and wreak unholy amounts of carnage. Whenever they were on-screen, HELL BABY almost works. It's too bad they aren't the stars, as Corddry and Bibb- both of whom are normally funny, have a hard time carrying the movie. They try their best, but this is all just too damn recycled, and not nearly as funny as it should have been. Anyone remember the shitty EXORCIST spoof REPOSSESED? HELL BABY is more than a little similar, mostly in they way neither are funny.
Along with Lennon and Ben Garant, the thing that keeps HELL BABY from the bottom-of-the barrel is Keegan Michael-Key, as a squatter in Jack and Vanessa's new home- who has a few impeccably timed lines. Ditto the presence of Riki Lindhome, whose shower scene is generously gratuitous, and dead-sexy enough that it kicks the film up at least a point or two. There's also a funny pot-smoking sequence, which is familiar, but amusing- although I'll admit I'm an easy mark for stoner humour.
Still- a handful of modest laughs aren't nearly enough to salvage this ninety minute movie. I still think most of the people who worked on HELL BABY- from the cast to the directors, are talented, but this just never really works- at least as far as I'm concerned. Too many of the jokes just fall flat, from the old, saggy SHINNING-style lady, who's obsessed with Jack, to the RENO 911 style cops played by Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel. There's nothing worse than watching a comedy that's just not funny- and sadly, HELL BABY is one of those.