AND THEN CAME LOVENR
Even hostile, petty, judgmental, unprofessional people need love. That's about the only take-away from this study of a buppie single mom (executive producer Vanessa Williams, currently starring on "Ugly Betty") who tracks down the anonymous donor whose sperm helped her conceive her elementary-school son. I suppose romantic comedies have sprung from tackier concepts--the sweetly naturalistic Knocked Up, for example--but it's hard to find many that pair a hostile, petty, judgmental shrew with a smarmy, self-righteous, emotionally bullying jerk. Add a whiny, spoiled, combative brat, a dangerously inattentive and immature babysitter and a one-note nag of a grandma, and whatever positive, life-affirming story the filmmakers meant to present gets lost amid a crowd of repugnant people.
Julie Davidson (Williams) is an evidently star staffer at the glossy Manhattan magazine Metropolitan, where she writes a column called "Choices" that, we're told, somehow appears "twice a week." Her own choice was to be a single parent through artificial insemination, but now that her son, Jake (Jeremy Gumbs), is in grade school and exhibiting some minor acting-out, Julie's being told by psychologists and unctuous teachers alike that unless she gets a positive male role model into the kid's life, he's doomed to all sorts of dire consequences. While Julie has a globetrotting boyfriend, Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Ted (Michael Boatman), he travels a lot. And when he's in New York, he's a caring, romantic, talented and successful man who's attentive and nice to her son--so, obviously, he's not good enough for her.
Julie instead hires a private investigator to track down Jake's anonymous sperm donor, whom she tacitly blames for her son's behavior. This leads her to Broadway legend Ben Vereen's sole scene as a reputedly famous attorney she's never heard of and who has cut ties with his donor son, Paul Cooper (Kevin Daniels, who was much more likeable as the voice of high-school football player Mack on the 1990s cult-hit TV-toon series "Daria"). She's directed to Jersey City, where Yale Law dropout Paul is a struggling actor. Julie, who has just published a book of her columns and is set to go on a publicity tour, is supposed to be a stellar journalist. Yet here and throughout the rest of movie, she's not only inept--not doing basic research, being gullible, having no interviewing skills--but unethical, which at least the movie later acknowledges.
Julie doesn't tell Paul her real reason for looking him up--or pretty much any reason, actually--and heads home disgusted with Paul for whining about his lot in life. He in turn tracks down her home address, and in creepy-stalker fashion ingratiates himself with Jake and the boy's young blonde sitter, Kiki (Anna Camp), who gets a bad enough case of jungle fever that soon Paul's co-babysitting with her. This generally involves their ignoring Jake on the playground and his getting physically threatening with moms who complain about Jake pushing around other kids. Kiki later summarily quits when Julie objects to her carelessness, without even a second glance at a child with whom she's presumably bonded. This clears the way for Paul to become Jake's "manny," and a silly scene of Julie spying on them in Central Park, "disguised" in sunglasses and a trench coat.
Boatman balances his contradictory character, a decent man with the self-absorbed view of many people in the creative fields, making his character feel real and human, and Stephen Spinella, as Julie's drama-critic buddy, does likewise in the standard gay-best-friend role. Director Richard Schenkman is more engaging in his cameo as a bartender than his film is in its entirety--due partly to hacksaw editing that gives the movie some of the clumsiest beats you've ever seen in a professional motion picture. The first feature by the independent studio Fox Meadow--no relation to Fox Faith, Fox Atomic or Fox Searchlight--it was filmed throughout Bergen County, NJ, in Manhattan, and, subbing for Boston, Peekskill, NY.