Published Apr 30, 2015During the opening moments of the Canadian almost-comedy, Preggoland, Ruth (Sonja Bennett) attends her high school pal Shannon's (Laura Harris) baby shower. The other women there are all surrounded by children — one is even nursing — while Shannon coos at the various gifts and Ruth looks woefully out of place, sipping from a flask and mocking an outfit with rabbit ears. When the scene ends, it's revealed that Ruth purchased Shannon a dildo, which is of course seen by the children and met with mass disapproval and humourless scorn from the mommies.
Now, in theory, there's nothing ostensibly wrong with this scene. It sets up Ruth as an outsider, dramatically visualizing the sense of alienation and isolation people feel when their friends all start having babies. It's like Stepford Wives or Body Snatchers, only we're supposed to champion the converted and poo-poo those that don't assimilate. The problem here is with tone, execution and comic timing. Jacob Tierney, who did a solid job with obnoxious material in The Trotsky and handled pitch black comedy quite effectively with Good Neighbours, goes for broad sitcom pratfalls here. There's no visual panache or style to accompany the fairly standard parental humour — someone's drinking in front of children?! — so we're left watching Bennett awkwardly playing drunk in a manner that's supposed to be funny but could just as easily be an afterschool morality special.
This tone, or lack thereof, is ultimately what plagues Preggoland through its duration. Shortly after Ruth is kicked to the curb by her peer group (she hits a kid in the face with a baseball bat while drunk in one of the best scenes of the movie), she's mistaken for pregnant on a city bus while toting around a stroller. What she notices is that people that are usually shitheads are suddenly smiling at her and offering up seats; she discovers that the road to social approval is through unprotected sex and contributing to overpopulation. But rather than actually go through with having a baby, Ruth tucks some socks into a pair of pantyhose and wraps it around her midsection.
This leads to the inevitable series of highly contrived scenarios involving ultrasounds, petty theft and unnecessary breathing classes. Ruth also develops a crush on her mommy-obsessed boss (Paul Campbell), develops an ersatz bond with grocery store janitor Pedro (Danny Trejo) after he finds out her secret and plays passive-aggressive power games with her bitch sister Hillary (Lisa Durupt), who desperately wants a baby of her own.
Sonja Bennett, who also wrote the screenplay, is charismatic and likeable; she works to her strengths and isn't afraid to do some seriously unflattering things to get a laugh. And while she's effective and the script is serviceable in a screenwriting 101 sort of way, the real issue is that there's never anything particularly funny that occurs. Both Bennett and Tierney are, in a way, satirizing the self-righteousness and solipsism of the nascent mommy crowd, but they're also afraid to offend that audience.
The result is a very tepid film that never effectively says anything. Ruth's arc is inevitable — once she takes the lie into the third trimester, Pedro's insistence that she buy a black market baby forces her to confront the absurdity of it all — resulting in some insights about not measuring yourself against the petty expectations of others, but even that is sort of murky.
Ostensibly, Bennett and Tierney needed to clear up the issue of tone before jumping into this project. The setup itself is inspired and does reveal some astute social observations, but without any real bite or risky manoeuvres, it just sort of flounders. Still, there are a couple of mildly amusing sequences and there's nothing outwardly bad about the movie; it's just sort of forgettable.