Reviewed by
Colin Jacobson

Title: She's Having a Baby (1988)
Studio Line: Paramount Pictures - A comedy about the labours of love

Last year at this time, Jake and Kristi were two crazy single kids in love. Now they're two crazy married adults in transition. Their dreams of a perfect life in a perfect house have turned into a series of hilarious marital nightmares. And Kristi just got some news that really ought to make things interesting -- She's Having A Baby!

Kevin Bacon (Footloose) and Elizabeth McGovern (Racing With The Moon) are Jake and Kristi, a perfect couple in an imperfect world. Their solutions to real-life problems make She's Having A Baby a wonderfully poignant and very funny look at chasing the good life.

Director: John Hughes
Cast: Kevin Bacon, Elizabeth McGovern, Alec Baldwin, William Windom, Paul Gleason
DVD: Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9; audio English DD 5.1 & Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround; subtitles English; closed-captioned; single sided - single layered; 31 chapters; rated PG-13; 105 min.; $29.98; street date 11/21/00.
Supplements: Theatrical Trailer.
Purchase: DVD

Picture/Sound/Extras: B-/B/D-

In 1988’s She’s Having a Baby, we witness the growing pains of director John Hughes. He made his name with teen-oriented fare like Sixteen Candles and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off but apparently tired of his status as king of the kiddies. As such, he pushed harder for more adult-oriented fare, a move that started with 1987’s Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

That film worked nicely due to the considerable talents of stars John Candy and Steve Martin. While it was Hughes’ first movie to concentrate on grown-up characters, it didn’t really concentrate on themes that were unique to adults; after all, 1998’s I’ll Be Home For Christmas used a fairly similar plot but starred late-teen Jonathan Taylor Thomas.

As such, She’s Having a Baby marked Hughes’ first truly “adult” storyline. Here we find newly-weds Jefferson “Jake” Briggs (Kevin Bacon) and Kristy (Elizabeth McGovern). The film starts with Jake’s pre-wedding jitters, and he doesn’t seem to feel comfortable in the relationship until the movie’s end.

Frankly, I can’t blame him, since it appears that he and Kristy have absolutely no personal connection. The chemistry between Bacon and McGovern seems nil, and I could never discern what they saw in each other. They made a fairly miserable couple who come together solidly at the end of the movie just because that’s the way these kinds of stories work; there’s no logic involved but it happens because of cinematic conventions.

It doesn’t help that both characters are terribly drawn and seem very incomplete. Bacon gets the better end of the bargain, as the movie focuses almost exclusively on Jake; Kristy qualifies as no more than a supporting character. We watch Jake as he goes through all of his growing pains; he has to get a real job, buy a house in the suburbs and contend with in-laws who demand grandchildren. Oh my - what a nightmare! To say that I felt little angst over Jake’s “plight” is an understatement; he essentially just seemed like an immature whiner most of the time.

Granted, I’d probably be pretty upset, too, if I had to deal with a selfish harpy like Kristy. McGovern was always a fairly likable actress, but she displays virtually no warmth here. Kristy appeared to be completely obsessed with her own concerns and almost never seemed to give a hoot about Jake. McGovern probably does the best she can with the material, but Hughes’ script paints her into such a small corner that there’s no way she can make the role more appealing. For God’s sake, the wench decides to halt her birth control but doesn’t consult her husband - I already dislike Kristy, but cavalier gestures like that made me absolutely loathe her.

Apparently the only reason we’re supposed to accept Jake and Kristy as a couple is because a) they’re both reasonably attractive, and b) the script expects us to do so. However, much of the story makes little sense. Soon after their marriage, Kristy cooks for Jake, an attempt that fails because she clearly has no clue what food he enjoys. While the wedding was recent, the movie tells us that these two have been together for a good number of years; in all that time, she never learned what he likes to eat?

That’s asinine, but it’s typical of She’s Having a Baby, an inane movie that sacrifices all attempts at logic whenever it wants to deliver a gag. The film wants to be a sincere and true-to-life tale of young adults as they move through the stages of adulthood, but not a single moment connected to reality. Despite a likable cast, the movie was tolerable at best and execrable at worst.

The DVD:

She’s Having a Baby appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. As a whole, the movie looked fairly good but it suffered a variety of concerns that lowered my grade to a “B-“.

Sharpness seemed fairly distinct and detailed, though the movie displayed some general blandness that was likely due to the film stock of the era; many Eighties pictures haven’t held up especially well in this regard, and SHAB looks like a product of its era. Exterior shots appeared nicely crisp and clear, but interiors - of which there are many - were somewhat drab and flat. Moiré effects appeared on occasion - mainly through blinds and a checked jacket worn by Bacon - but I saw virtually no artifacts from the anamorphic downconversion on my 4X3 TV. Print flaws seemed fairly minor. Some light grain appeared, and I saw intermittent examples of speckles, grit, and a couple of nicks, but these were relatively rare and caused few concerns.

Colors appeared acceptably natural and accurate throughout the movie, but at times they could look drab and bland. The worst examples occurred during the nightclub scene; at that time the colored lighting made the image seem rather murky and hazy. Black levels seemed acceptably dark though dull, and shadow detail was similarly flat; low-light scenes generally appeared fairly easy to discern, but they looked too lackluster to be anything impressive. Ultimately, SHAB always was watchable but never rose too far above that level.

Somewhat better was the film’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Although nothing mind-blowing, the soundfield was fairly involving and engaging. The forward spectrum dominated and showed some decent stereo imaging. The music spread cleanly across the front speakers, and I also heard occasional use of discrete effects. These panned relatively well across the channels, though some awkwardness occurred; for example, one scene has a dog bark as he runs from one side to the other, and the woofs don’t move very smoothly. However, most of the forward audio seemed fairly well-integrated.

The surrounds contributed some solid sound as well. For the most part I found the rears to appear monaural, but some split surround usage occurred, such as when a car zipped from the back to the front. None of the effects from the surrounds were terribly impressive, but they seemed good for this kind of movie. Mostly it was the film’s music that was nicely reinforced in the rear. Clearly the soundfield doesn’t compete with something from a more recent action spectacular, but I thought it seemed pretty good nonetheless.

Also positive was the quality of the audio. During louder scenes - particularly the leads’ big fight - dialogue betrayed some mild edginess, and it could also seem slightly flat at times, but for the most part speech appeared distinct and natural, with no issues related to intelligibility. Effects were clean and realistic and showed no signs of distortion. The music seemed clear and bright and displayed modest though erratic low end; some scenes offered fairly solid bass, whereas others were much less rich. As a whole, the track lacked much deep bass, but I found the dynamics to seem fairly satisfying. The soundtrack of SHAB worked fairly well for the film it served.

It won’t take long to cover the DVD’s supplements because we only find one: the theatrical trailer. Not only does the DVD lack substantial bonus materials, but they couldn’t even get the disc’s insert card correct; bizarrely, it only lists the first 16 of its 31 chapters. Very odd!

Even had She’s Having a Baby included more significant extras, I doubt it would have won me over just because I didn’t much care for the film itself. The story and characters seemed like broad generalizations at best and lacked little insight into the human situations it purported to depict. The movie also failed as a comedy and really provided little entertainment. The DVD offers decent but unexceptional picture and sound plus almost no supplements. If you’re really interested, She’s Having a Baby might merit a rental, but that’s about as much as I can recommend.

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