Labor Pains (Blu-ray)
Studio: First Look Studios
Film Length: 89 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
HD Encoding: 1080p
HD Codec: AVC
Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1; English DD 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH; Spanish
Disc Format: 1 25GB
Original Airdate: July 19, 2009
Blu-ray Release Date: Aug. 4, 2009
Since celebrity gossip bores me, I missed the announcement that Lindsay Lohan's latest film, Labor Pains, was skipping theatrical release and being sold to TV (ABC Family, as it happens). Having seen the film, a first feature by director and co-writer Lara Shapiro, I now understand why it was deemed better suited to television. The reasons have nothing to do with Lohan.
Thea Clayhill (Lohan) works as a secretary to Jerry Steinwald (Chris Parnell), the head of a small publishing company that specializes in obscure military works such as a 1400-page illustrated history of bullets. It's a rotten job, and the boss is a cartoonish boor, but Thea needs the paycheck, because her parents are dead and she is the sole support of her younger sister. Thea's only pleasures in life are gossiping with her best friend, Lisa, who also works at the company, and occasional get-togethers with her slacker boyfriend Miles (Aaron Yoo).
After a particularly silly mishap at work involving the boss's beloved dog and a bar of soap, Thea is on the verge of getting fired. In desperation, she blurts out, falsely, that she's pregnant by Miles. The legal department, where one of the attorneys is also very pregnant, now insists that Thea can't be fired.
With Lisa helping her fake the pregnancy - it's Lisa who steals a pregnancy "bump" from a mannequin in a maternity store - Thea now finds her world transformed. Everyone in the office warms to her; strangers on the bus offer her a seat; her landlord stops pestering her about the overdue rent. Thea decides that life as a pregnant woman may not be so bad after all.
An even sillier mishap involving the boss's dog and a softball game removes Jerry from the office for a few months, leaving his younger brother Nick in charge (Luke Kirby). Nick is an idealist who'd like to broaden the firm's product line, starting with - who would have thought? - a book about pregnancy authored by Suzi Cavandish (Bonnie Somerville). Believing Thea to be genuinely pregnant, Luke enlists her to help persuade Suzi to sign with Steinwald Publishing. Thea talks Suzi into signing, and Luke promotes her from secretary to editor. More money, her own office, her own secretary - it's Working Girl with a foam rubber belly!
From this point, you can see rest of the plot coming a mile away. Slacker Miles will be quickly sent packing, while Thea and Luke will fall for each other. Thea's deception will be revealed, and boorish Jerry will return, at the most embarrassing possible moment. Thea will have to suffer the requisite humiliation and make the appropriate apologies, but all will be right in the end.
Lohan is the best thing about the film, because she gives Thea a real air of desperation, especially in the middle section of the film, when she's so caught up in her deception that she begins to act as if she really believes she's pregnant. (There's a scene at a baby shower that only an actress with genuine talent could have pulled off.) But most of the film has a by-the-numbers, cartoonish feel that weighs down both the performances and the filmmaking. It doesn't help that so many of the actors are familiar faces from television, or that the filmmaking style, using hi-def video, consistently reminds you of a sitcom. There may not be a laugh track, but it wouldn't be out of place. I blame the script, which takes promising subject matter, then squanders it on pratfalls and rom-com cliches.
While we know from productions like Before the Devil Knows You're Dead that hi-def video is capable of expressive subtlety and texture, you'd never know it from this film. Everything looks pretty much the same, and for those who hate film grain and love clarity and depth of field, this should be demo material. Color, detail and black levels are excellent. This is how it looks when there's technical perfection and zero artistry.
The Dolby TrueHD track is solid and serviceable. There is nothing to criticize and nothing to remark on.
Here's a special feature not included on the disc: scene selections. The disc is divided into chapters, but there's no "scenes" section on the main menu.
Making of Featurette (12:58). Brief conversations with cast members, the director and the producer.
Production Stills. A small collection of on-set photographs.
Cast Interviews. Interviews (no more than 2 minutes each, most less) with Lohan, Hines, Kirby and Parnell. Much of the footage duplicates the "making of" featurette.
Trailers. The film's trailer is included, along with trailers for The Code, Stilletto and Wedding Weekend. The latter three also play when the disc starts and can be skipped via the chapter forward button.
Director Lara Shapiro is best known for a very funny series of spots she did for IFC Films featuring Hallie Eisenberg as an au courant independent film director, along with Matt Damon, Edward Norton, Lily Taylor and Janeane Garofalo (who has a small role in Labor Pains as a talk show host). That history led me to hope for a much bolder comedy than what Labor Pains turned out to be. ABC Family was a good home for it. It's the kind of place where this film, because of its subject matter, could give the illusion of having an edge.
Equipment used for this review:
Panasonic BDP-BD50 Blu-ray player (TrueHD decoded internally and output as analog)
Samsung HL-T7288W DLP display (connected via HDMI)
Lexicon MC-8 connected via 5.1 passthrough
Sunfire Cinema Grand amplifier
Monitor Audio floor-standing fronts and MA FX-2 rears
Boston Accoustics VR-MC center
Velodyne HGS-10 sub
Edited by Michael Reuben - 8/5/2009 at 02:53 pm GMT