Movie Review: ‘Hell Baby’
Starring: Rob Corddry, Leslie Bibb, and Keegan Michael Key
Plot: A married couple expecting their first child move into a haunted house.
You probably know Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon. They were main cast members and creators of Comedy Central’s Reno 911. Ever since then they have been writing some pretty broad, uninspired Hollywood crap, like Jimmy Fallon and Queen Latifah’s buddy cop comedy Taxi and Ben Stiller’s franchise Night of the Museum. Basically, the two of them really haven’t written anything quite as funny as Reno 911. This seems like something that they made outside of the Hollywood industry with a good cast, so I was hoping this would be better.
Rob Corddry plays Jack, a man who recently bought a haunted house in a crappy neighborhood of New Orleans based on a tip that the neighborhood was about to turn around. His very pregnant wife, Vanessa, is played by Leslie Bibb. Bibb has a very underrated sense of humor. She is more than competent when it comes to drama, but her strength is how much she commits to doing stupid things in comedies. Corddry on the other hand always surprises me with how good he is at dramatic work, like being the best part of Butter. Even though he is usually a bumbling asshole best friend in movies, he plays the straight man here. The thing about this flick is there is so much craziness, the straight man becomes the jokester, his frazzled reactions to the craziness being the best punchlines. Before any of that weirdness happens though, they meet their seemingly homeless neighbor, F’resnal (no, I did not spell that wrong), played by Keegan Michael Kay, a very underrated comedy talent who can do over-the-top affectations and keep it funny. He pretty much welcomes himself into their home and ends up helping them when the supernatural mumbo jumbo starts fighting back.
When the supernatural stuff first happens, it is pretty well balanced. It totally reminded me of Shaun of the Dead, the way that the comedy and horror were individual in such a way that each could work without the other yet they were combined to make a superior project. Then they introduced Garant and Lennon’s characters. They play a couple of paranormal investigators working for the Vatican. They both were doing really awful impressions of Father Guido Sarducci. These 2 team up with Rob Huebel and Paul Sheer’s hapless New Orleans patrol men. Huebel and Sheer have done great work in the past, but this foursome together drags the movie way down.
After their introduction, the movie basically becomes Scary Movie 6. The characterizations,legitimate horror elements, and well-placed punchlines are thrown off to the side in favor of easy underwhelming punchlines and gags, slapstick versions of horror tropes, and horrible attempts at edgy comedy. For instance, there are not one, but TWO, scenes of the characters going out to get po-boys, which are basically just montages of characters stuffing their faces. And then there is another scene with the incredibly funny Rikki Lindhome, where her airhead new-ager is completely nude. That’s basically the only punchline: that she’s nude. The finale is probably the biggest offender where it commits fully to becoming a Scary Movie knock off. It is basically a live action cartoon, a hectic and tasteless slapstick version of real horror movies.
Hell Baby starts off with so much potential, but about a third of the way in (if that), it completely loses focus.
What Else to Watch: If you really want to see a horror-comedy about an innocent family who moves into the wrong home and end up dealing with demonic forces, watch Beetlejuice.