'Hell Baby' too infantile to make effective spoof

05:00 AM, Sep 05, 2013

Rob Corddry, left, and Leslie Bibb give birth to Satanic spawn in the comedy 'Hell Baby' Millennium Entertainment/


Written By by Scott Bowles, USA TODAY

Hell Baby is what happens when you try to parody a parody.

The result is a film that’s less than half as funny as its predecessor, and a sliver as clever as the original.

Or, in this case, Hell Baby (* ½ out of four; rated R; opens in select cities Friday).

Meant to lampoon the Scary Movie franchise while spoofing Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, Baby winds up bearing its own weird spawn: a film that doesn’t know how to poke mild fun or pay earnest homage. Instead, the normally reliable Rob Corddry is left shouldering a misfire that throws in graphic violence and nudity not for story, but to hit its target demographic.

But it’s hard to imagine Baby connecting with fans of either horror or humor. Expectant parents Jack (Corddry) and Vanessa (Leslie Bibb) move into a New Orleans home that was the site of several murders with the intent of flipping it for a quick profit.

Things go south quickly for Jack, Vanessa and us. Vanessa is having the worst of the haunted-house jitters, doing her best Linda Blair by swearing profusely, smoking incessantly and drinking heavily. You may consider doing the same.

There are moments of actual chemistry here, particularly between Corddry and Keegan Michael Key, who plays a wisecracking goof who happens to live in the couple’s basement, like a Kramer who lives in Seinfeld’s bathtub.

Unfortunately, such is Baby’s formula for humor: Take a joke that might have worked a decade ago and say it several times until at least the repetition becomes funny. Which it doesn’t.

Or Baby makes an odd stab at its own comedic originality, as when Vanessa urinates on her husband outside in front of the neighbors. That’s funny-strange, not funny-ha-ha.

Give directors Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon this: The two Reno 911! co-stars, who appear in the film as chain-smoking and heavily accented priests, make a great Father Guido Sarducci.