MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on Movies: The Babymakers

U.S.: Jay Chandrasekhar, 2012

Devotees of jokes about masturbation, sterility, sperm bank burglaries and getting repeatedly kicked in the groin, will have struck the mother lode with the new comedy The Babymakers — a movie so coarse, crude and defiantly raunchy that it makes the Farrelly Brothers look like Walt Disney, The Three Stooges look (and sound) like the Three Tenors, and Tyler Perry look like Robert Bresson.

I have no prejudice against raunchiness, as long as its funny, and I’ve got to admit that I laughed occasionally at The Babymakers. I chuckled and smiles far more than I did, for instance, at the more politically correct recent comedy about sex and pregnancy, Celeste  and Jesse Forever, which struck me as smart yet almost mystifyingly unfunny. But I didn’t laugh with a clear conscience. The Babymakers is pretty bad, and if you remember it much afterwards, it will probably mostly be with regret at the time you wasted watching it, when you could have been doing something more constructive and enjoyable, like making babies.

That’s the narrative hook of The Babymakers. Married couple Tommy and Audrey Macklin (the acidulous Paul Schneider and the radiant Olivia Munn), have been burning up the sheets trying to procreate, for many months, when their doctor suggests that the problem may be that Tommy, to put it diplomatically, may be shooting blanks. Tommy objects to this explanation, since years ago, he proudly made multiple donations to a local sperm bank , and got no complaints. Some of his sperm, in fact, is still sitting around at the bank, frozen. Since then though, he’s taken repeated kicks to the gonads, and takes some more in the course of this show (and may take even more if any audience members spot him), and the doctor suggests that his equipment may have suffered the consequences.

Off goes Tommy with his wild and crazy pals Wade (Kevin Heffernan) and Zig-Zag (Nat Faxon), to make things right. Their goal: to break into the sperm bank one night and steal his last remaining seed. This sets up the movie’s showpiece scene, when clumsy Wade breaks numerous bottle of sperm, spills them all over the floor, then trips and slips and slides around in the jism. I guarantee you’ve never seen anything like this scene — which is, of course no reason that you should see it now.

The guys that made The Babymakers — director-star Jay Chandrasekhar, costars Paul Schneider and  Kevin Heffernan and writers Peter Gaulke and Gerry Swallow, are mostly TV and standup comics and filmmakers, and they do know where some laughs are. But it’s a hit and mostly miss proposition. The best performance is by director Chandrasekhar, who plays a somewhat addled Indian-American crook-for-hire who claims to be a veteran of the Indian Mafia, and plays it with goofy panache.

Chandrasekhar, by the way, as far as I can discover, is no relation to the late, brillint, legendary Indian-American astronomer and Nobel Laureate in Physics, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, who did ground-breaking research into white dwarf stars and whom  I once met, when I was 10 or so. (He was very nice to me and my mother.)  Dr. Chandrasekhar, whose uncle was also a Nobel laureate in physics, lived mostly in Chicago and worked at the University, but also partly in Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, where I grew up.

I think it’s safe to say though that Jay Chandrasekhar  will never win the Nobel Prize for Physics, or even for sperm preservation research, though he might well open up his own bank, if his customers have good  shoes and a Farrellyesque sense of humor.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon