"She's havin' a baby, what a lovely way of saying how much you love me". Sorry, Paul Anka, you can generalize the baby with "a", rather than "my", but there's no making that song's lyric less than a little creepy, and come to think of it, this film's title is a little unnerving... and a little lazy. Oh, well, jeez, John Hughes, is the main theme of this romantic comedy supposed to be parenthood or something like that? Say what you will, but whether it be because not to many people are lazy enough to take on a title like this, or whatever, it's original, at least in comparison with the film itself. It's not even distinguished as a John Hughes film about grown-up issues which stars someone whose surname derives from a tasty, but unhealthy snack, because first it was "Planes, Trains & Automobiles", with John Candy, and now you have this film, with Kevin Bacon. I'm making a stretch, sure, but looking at the "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" game, you seem to be obligated to stretch something out when Kevin Bacon is around, as this film's title won't tell you, seeing as how they must not have put too much thought into it. The film itself, however, has its inspired elements, and yet, I must admit that its lazy aspects don't end with the title.
The film is plenty refreshing, and when it's less than that, it tends to devolve to tropes, not exactly being consistently predictable, but with beats whose gradual unraveling carries some predictability which slows down momentum to an ambition to freshen up storytelling, sometimes a touch too much. There's not a whole lot of style to this film, but John Hughes, as director and writer, makes a few slightly questionable touches to storytelling style, particularly when it comes to dramatizations of Kevin Bacon's lead Jefferson "Jake" Briggs' eccentric fantasies, which are not only forced, but thin out subtlety, despite their being more unique than the narrative concept itself. These odd stylistic touches aren't especially big issues, but they stand, and they're a little harder to ignore as inconsequential once the film's storytelling seems to abandon them, sometimes for the sake of heavier, perhaps even dramatic elements which drive inconsistency in tone, but just barely. Unevenness in style and tone is there, but just barely, especially compared to an unevenness in pacing, whose tighter elements are often awkward in their hurrying, and whose more draggy elements are often repetitious, resulting in a lack of certainty to momentum so extreme and recurrent that the film gets to be aimless. To make matters worse, as lively as John Hughes keeps a lot of things as director, there are dry spells where a certain quietness or simple steadiness to directorial pacing comes into play, maybe dulling things down, and certainly stiffening already questionable pacing that gets the final product to an almost 110-minute runtime which its narrative might not be meaty enough to sustain. Natural shortcomings to this barely consequential narrative hold back potential that, well, is all but transcended, thanks to plenty of inspired and effective elements, which, alas, see too great a challenge within the unevenness for underwhelmingness to go overcome. The film falls shy of rewarding, but for what this is, that's impressive, for although natural shortcomings and inconsistencies shake momentum, there's enough engagement value to make quite the entertaining flick.
Entertainment value is even reinforced by the musical value of the film, which alternates between old-fashioned song and solid, then-contemporary tunes of the latter '80s that aren't too clichéd, and liven things up, thanks partly to their clever utilization within Hughes' direction. Hughes, at least as director, drives much of the entertainment value of the film through style, because even though Hughes' writing has some questionable stylistic touches, Hughes' direction has a snap to its plays on visuals and Alan Heim's editing which keeps momentum brisk, until broken by slower storytelling touches that, while often steady to the point of blandness, draw you in when they most need to, particularly with a surprisingly penetrating final act. Alternating between fun and thoughtful, Hughes' direction is what most drives the final product to the brink of rewarding, over which it can't quite cross, partly due to the natural shortcomings that Hughes faces as a filmmaker whose directorial skills outweigh his narrative skills. There's not much to this film's story concept, and yet, it's plenty interesting, interpreting relatable subject matter dealing with the evolution of a couple and of the reinforcement of a husband's masculinity in a manner whose more lighthearted elements are fun and whose more weighty aspects are compelling, even in a concept that Hughes brings to life in a script which, at the same time, holds the final product back. If Hughes' script was more refreshing, realized in style, and even in tone and pacing, the final product might have actually stood a chance of transcending its minimalist story concept's potential and achieving a rewarding point, yet at the same time, the film owes much of its engagement value to Hughes' direction and writing, which has its share of solid, refreshing set pieces, as well as dialogue that is often literary in its snap, and consistently complimentary to a strong sense of humor that ranges from amusing to near-hilarious. As for the deeper aspects of Hughes' writing, while characterization seems to focus too much on the Jake Briggs protagonist, to the point of even underplaying the should-be almost equally significant Kristy Briggs role, the film is driven by grounded and memorable characters, brought to life by grounded and memorable performances, with Alec Baldwin stealing the spotlight every time he steps under it through his classic electric chemistry, while Kevin Bacon's portrayal of a passionate, but quiet everyman who embraces and questions many of the paths taken in his life is impeccable, with enough charming and convincingness to make quite the worthy lead. Bacon's individual charisma, and chemistry with his peers, is a delight that drives the film about as much as highlights in Hughes' direction and writing, of which there aren't enough to make a truly strong affair, but enough to make an almost rewardingly entertaining one.
When it's all said and done, a minimalist story of limited consequence could have been made into a rewarding opus if it wasn't so challenged by a lack of originality in certain places, the occasional questionable stylistic choice, and an unevenness in tone and pace, for the solid soundtrack, slickly paced, when not thoughtful highlights in John Hughes' stylish direction and snappy writing, and charismatic acting - especially from worthy leading man Kevin Bacon - prove to be enough to make the lazily titled "She's Having a Baby" a generally very entertaining and sometimes compellingly inspired, if ultimately held back dramedy.
2.75/5 - Decent