Written by Matt Taylor
Will Ferrell is funny. Kristen Wiig is funny. Lifetime movies are funny, albeit ironically. You’d think that combining the three would result in a hilarious comedy. Unfortunately, A Deadly Adoption doesn’t add up to the sum of its parts.
The plot is so ridiculous that it’s hard not to crack a smile. Ferrell and Wiig play a married couple struggling to move past the loss of their unborn child after a freak accident. They decide to adopt a baby and, as per usual on Lifetime, invite the mother of their child to live with them after talking to her for roughly twenty minutes. It’s not long before the husband starts to suspect that their new houseguest is trying to seduce him. But she might have more sinister intentions. Over the course of its two-hour runtime, just about every Lifetime movie cliché works its way into the script. But, when every Lifetime movie has a plot this ridiculous, how can you tell when it’s intentionally comedic?
The talent involved certainly suggests that we’re supposed to be laughing with A Deadly Adoption, not at it. Wiig and Ferrell are two of the funniest people on the planet. It’s produced by Adam McKay, director of Step Brothers and Anchorman, and written by Andrew Steele, the mastermind behind The Spoils of Babylon, IFC’s critically acclaimed soap opera spoof. But this film is played with a very straight face. Viewers who, for whatever reason, don’t know who Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig are might think this is just your typical Lifetime melodrama. And even those familiar with the work of its stars might find themselves second-guessing the film’s tone.
No amount of funny people in front or behind the camera can guarantee a successful comedy and, unfortunately, A Deadly Adoption overestimates how funny Lifetime movies can be. Some of the jokes work quite well: the plot twists are often so outrageous you can’t help but chuckle. Wiig is particularly committed to the joke, and during a ridiculous fight scene has the chance to show off her strength with physical comedy. The problem is that every joke does nothing more than poke fun at Lifetime, and the same joke can only be funny so many times before it stops working. By the time the final half hour creeps along, I was ready to change the channel. Had this been an SNL sketch, it would have been hilarious. As a two-hour TV movie, it’s tedious.
The worst thing about A Deadly Adoption is that there’s so much wasted potential with this premise, and it’s a shame that the cast didn’t go all the way with their spoof. Ferrell is never given the chance to truly shine, especially since his specialty is in playing loud, obnoxious characters. The deadpan tone doesn’t really work in his favor. The rest of the cast, however, must have missed the memo about this being a comedy. I’m sure Jessica Lowndes would make a great psychopath in a real Lifetime thriller, but she’s out of her element here. Had a comedian played the part, the film could have been at least a bit funnier. And Bryan Safi, who has appeared in some hilarious Funny Or Die sketches, is wasted in a thankless supporting role. In fact, the best gag in the film isn’t because of someone in the cast, but the text onscreen just before the credits role.
One quick glance at Twitter reveals that not everyone may have gotten the joke. Quite a few viewers tweeted their surprise that Will Ferrell would appear in a serious thriller, and others acted as if this was just your typical Lifetime movie. This may speak more to how loyal the channel’s fan base is than anything else, but it does highlight the biggest problem with A Deadly Adoption: it just isn’t that funny. Comedy may be subjective, but when your audience doesn’t seem to know they’re supposed to be laughing, there is clearly a problem. Sure, a few jokes work, but none of them work well enough to warrant a glowing recommendation. If you really want to laugh at this sort of movie, you’d be better off watching an actual Lifetime thriller and making up your own jokes along the way.
Rating: 4 out of 10.
A Deadly Adoption is currently airing on Lifetime