In April, word leaked that Will Ferrell and Kristin Wiig, co-stars dating back to Saturday Night Live, would be appearing together in yet another film. Not news, itself, and even the title, A Deadly Adoption, didn’t necessarily mean anything, nor did the fact it was made for TV. No, the factoid that set everyone’s teeth on edge was this: It was slated to appear on Lifetime. You know, Television for Women and Gay Men. The plot sounded like a cross between The Hand That Rocks The Cradle and Fatal Attraction, which are of course the same movie anyway. But this was Ferrell and Wiig. Clowns. Sure, they’d done some serious work, but there’s “serious” and there’s “Lifetime movie.” It had to be a joke … didn’t it?
And that’s what audiences still can’t figure out.
The movie debuted on Saturday night in the usually world premiere space previously occupied by such dubious titles as Mother May I Sleep with Danger, An Amish Murder, Another Woman’s Husband and Baby for Sale. So, clearly, it would be like those. And it was. ….
Or was it?
I’ve seen it and I still can’t tell.
I can say this much: It is not an outright spoof. It doesn’t hold for laughs, nor is it funny … at least no more so than any other Lifetime movie. The plot is predictable and dumb: A successful financial planner/author (Ferrell) — we know this because they mention “book” or “best seller” five times (five!) in the first 45 seconds of the screenplay — goes into a downward spiral after his wife (Wiig) loses their second child when she falls through a handrail on a dock. Five years later, Ferrell is still tortured, but they have decided to adopt, following the unorthodox method of allowing the mother to live with them. “I think we’re going to be very happy,” Wiig declared less than 20 minutes in, and for anyone who’s ever seen a Lifetime movie, that line is virtual proof that things are not going to work out.
And that’s the conundrum: Everything that happens in A Deadly Adoption is so terrible, so cliche, that you figure they have to be putting us on! But if so, they never let us in on the joke.
Nothing makes sense. Not that fact that Wiig expands her business not because her business-minded husband suggests it but because the Only Gay in the Village (Bryan Safi, from the Podcast Throwing Shade) does; he, of course, dies, as all sexless gay men do in these movies, because he follows a kidnapper without backup since his phone conveniently hits a dead zone at the precise right (wrong) moment. The couple’s 6-year-old daughter, of course, has diabetes (because asthma is so trite). The surrogate mom is a psycho who tears Wiig out of a photo and lets it fall to the ground. There is not one shot you see that you haven’t seen before, including the end-of-show, pre-credit-scroll assertion, “Inspired by a True Story.”
It’s a hoot … except it’s not. Ferrell and Wiig are terrible and wooden (proof that talent cannot elevate some scripts) and the movie so slow and predictable, if they were trying to make a point about cheesy TV movies by mimicking one, they fail.
David Lynch has toyed with soap opera by not blinking, and there are plenty of comedies that mock bad comedy by being intentionally unfunny, but this is somehow different: You can neither enjoy it ironically or unironically. It’s post-modern meta-cheesefest, so intent on recreating what it beholds that it becomes that very thing. Like the mad scientist who turns himself into a zombie, A Deadly Adoption is a victim of its own existence.