**1/2 (out of 5)
September 6, 2013
Rob Corddry as JACK
Leslie Bibb as VANESSA
Keegan Michael Key as F’RESNEL
Robert Ben Garant as FATHER SEBASTIAN
Thomas Lennon as FATHER PADRIGO
Riki Lindhome as MARJORIE
Rob Huebel as MICKEY
Paul Scheer as RON
Studio: Millennium Entertainment
Directed by: Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Watching a movie like “Hell Baby” makes me wonder if found footage and awful spoofs like “Epic Movie” and “Meet the Spartans” have driven a stake into the heart of the modern comedy. It’s not that “Hell Baby” is either of these things. In fact, the movie being something other than this actually wins points in my book. However, at times this film is cobbled by trying not to be these things when it could have just been a more straightforward comedy.
“Hell Baby” is a horror comedy written and directed by Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant, who are most famous for their work on the television series “Reno 911!” The film tells the story of Jack and Vanessa (Rob Corddry and Leslie Bibb), a married couple who got a great deal on a fix-it-up house in the ghetto. Vanessa is pregnant, and as soon as they move into the house, she starts experiencing bizarre behavior, leading them to wonder if she might be carrying a demon baby.
It’s not that we haven’t seen comedies based on the exorcism and haunted house sub-genres of horror movies. We’ve gotten plenty of that – from various gags in the “Scary Movie” franchise to most recently “A Haunted House.” Many of the jokes tread familiar ground, such as the easy dismissal of obviously dangerous events, morally questionable priests and jokes about vomit and other human fluids.
Some of these jokes stick, but more often, they don’t. What saves some of the less-than-funny scenes is the cast, namely Corddry bringing his harsher edge we see in “Children’s Hospital” and Keegan Michael Key as the alarmingly creepy-yet-charming neighbor.
Where “Hell Baby” really runs off the rails are the moments that go on too long or really cease sending up the actual horror genre, namely when Garant and Lennon are on screen together outside of the haunted house. They have a laborious backstory that belongs more in an action comedy than a horror comedy, and we are treated to more than enough shots of them eating po’ boy sandwiches (a nod to the location shooting in New Orleans).
Still, I can’t say I didn’t walk away from this movie not wanting a po’ boy.
For people with low-brow tastes like myself, there is plenty of R-rated humor and quite the gratuitous nude scene featuring Riki Lindhome, and lots of her. Even if this wasn’t the funniest scene in the film, it was the most watchable for myself. (Yeah, I’m a pig.)
Unfortunately, it seems that Garant and Lennon conjured lightning in a bottle with “Reno 911!” because their forays onto the big screen (with the obvious exception being “Reno 911!: Miami”) have left something to be desired. The last time I remember a fun premise not playing out as well as it should was their 2007 film “Balls of Fury. (I know… what could go wrong with Christopher Walken overseeing a ping-pong death match?)
I can’t say I didn’t laugh during “Hell Baby.” I just didn’t laugh as much as I would have liked to, or as much as I expected to. Still, there’s a certain appeal to the film for escaping the trappings of direct spoofs and found footage. Plus, I imagine that on home video with a few adult beverages, “Hell Baby” might be a lot more fun.