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Artisan Home Entertainment presents
"Oh, Lord, this is bad."
DVD ReviewWasn't Skeet Ulrich, circa 1999, going to be a huge, huge movie star? The Hollywood publicity machine seemed to be pulling out all the stops for him there for a while, but something clearly went askew. And judging from his work here, it may well have been his choice of scripts, for he gives a nice performance, but neither he nor any of the handful of notable supporting actors can redeem this generally unfunny "comedy."
Ulrich plays Billy Raedeen, general no-account, whose partner in crime since childhood has been Buford (Gary Oldman)—they were raised in the same orphanage, and moved up the ladder of petty criminality to car theft, breaking and entering, and more drunk-and-disorderlies than a college football team the night after a bowl game. A judge orders them to be separated, and they outwit the even stupider guards, allowing them to escape; Billy witnesses a terrible traffic accident, the only survivor of which is a six-month-old baby, whom Billy takes as his own.
Why this guy feels responsible or wants to care for the child is never made clear, and hence there's something fundamentally false and undramatic at the center of the story. Nevertheless, Billy and the little one land in a Nevada trailer park, where the locals are colorful in a sitcommy kind of way—they include Radha Mitchell as the proverbial waitress with a heart of gold (and, of course, an abusive boyfriend), and Mary Steenburgen in a silly wig as a single mother who has just given up her own baby for adoption. Billy falls hard for the waitress, and gets Buford to take a bus to town for more screen comedy wackiness.
Oldman's trademark intensity is nowhere on display, and he seems to get lost behind an oversized handlebar moustache and flip-up sunglasses; the other performers don't fare much better. (The most fun you'll have watching this movie is during the final credits, which feature Oldman and Steenburgen line dancing.) There are obvious similarities between this story and Raising Arizona, and while that's an admittedly high standard, even taken on its own terms, Nobody's Baby isn't especially entertaining. It's got about as many spit-up jokes as one of the Look Who's Talking movies, and while there are some visuals that are good for a laugh—Oldman paging through the yellow pages, looking for someplace to rob, or him hanging in a bar with a beer, a smoke, and the baby—it's just not enough. It's also a movie in which the apex of comedy is that old standby, the hemorrhoid joke. Noel Coward doesn't have anything to worry about, but were he still alive he'd want to be sure not to lend his Chap Stick to writer/director David Seltzer.
Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: C-
Image Transfer Review: Lots and lots of grain make some of this difficult to watch, and insult to injury is that it's not shown here in its original aspect ratio. But there's money on display, especially with a couple of helicopter shots that must have been astonishingly expensive. Still, there's a good bit of sloppy filmmaking—too many rack focus shots for my money, and in one especially embarrassing instance, the shadow of a member of the crew is cast over Ulrich's torso, when he's yards from any of the other actors.
Image Transfer Grade: C-
Audio Transfer Review: Dynamics are adequate and there's only a small amount of hiss, but on occasion Oldman's accent and his moustache are both so thick that what he says is absolutely impenetrable.
Audio Transfer Grade: C
Disc ExtrasStatic menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Extras Review: Lots of chapter stops and a trailer that runs all of thirty-eight seconds are the only extras.
Extras Grade: D
Final CommentsA labored comedy without many laughs and with a surprisingly maudlin conclusion, Nobody's Baby doesn't have a whole lot to recommend it.
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