Irresistible Kiwi comedy
Baby Done is another of the recent run of New Zealand comedies — but it’s got certain extra advantages.
The film stars Rose Matafeo, and it’s written by the team behind the fondly-remembered Fantail — writer Sophie Henderson and director Curtis Vowell.
It’s fascinating who is being given the credit for the success of Baby Done.
Executive producer Taika Waititi, of course, guest stars like Rachel House and Madeleine Sami, and of course the lead, the very popular Matafeo, have all been name-checked, and fair enough.
Stand-up comedian Matafeo certainly shows an impressive range as a straight actor in the film.
But most of the credit should go to husband and wife team Vowell — who directed it — and Henderson who wrote it.
Fantail is one of my top five New Zealand films ever. The reason there was such a gap between that and this is they found themselves dropping everything to have a baby. Hence this story.
Matafeo and English actor Matthew Lewis — yes, he was Neville Longbottom in Harry Potter, and no, he’s nothing like that in this . . .
Anyway, they play long-time couple, Zoe and Tim, who work as arborists — tree fellers to me — and are, shall we say, a bit competitive. Even at a baby shower.
Zoe in particular has no interest in having kids because she’s got far too many things to do — like competing in the World Tree-Climbing Comps in Canada shortly.
I have no idea if this is a real thing or not, but if it isn’t it should be.
And then there’s a hiccup.
“It’s not a tapeworm, it’s a baby” is one of the best quotes from the film.
Tim may suddenly become a bit clucky over the good news, but Zoe refuses to allow mere pregnancy to get in the way of her dreams — Dream One still being serious redwood climbing, baby or not.
It is every “having a baby” story turned on its head, and it won’t work if we don’t absolutely buy the dysfunctional couple.
Chemistry is elusive — remember Rhys Darby and Sally Hawkins in Love Birds?
Well, Matafeo and Lewis are the opposite of that.
Zoe in particular could be the most irritating character as she creates a pre-baby bucket list for both her and Tim, and then tries to cram a lifetime’s desperate fun into a few weeks.
But it’s hard not to love her, thanks to a tailor-made script and some dazzling supporting characters.
Sami and House are both great as always — with a total of about a dozen lines between them, I should add — but there’s an embarrassment of other riches.
So many that even the omnipresent Tom Sainsbury is relegated to a “blink and you miss him” appearance as an expectant father.
Recently we’ve had a flurry of New Zealand comedies on the big and small screens. Their default position has often been a bit blokey and jokey — even women-driven projects like The Breaker Upperers.
The gags are the point, and the characters just devices for delivering them.
But Baby Done isn’t that. It’s very funny, but the funny comes from the characters. Henderson’s script is smart and unpredictable, and at its heart — like Fantail — it’s all about people we care about.
And not just Zoe and Tim, but at least a dozen others, any of whom could have had their own movie.
This isn’t just a good comedy. Against quite a bit of strong competition, Curtis Vowell has produced my favourite New Zealand film this year. - Radio NZ