First Look Pictures // 2009 // 89 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Daniel Kelly (Retired) // August 10th, 2009
Some stories keep on growing
Labor Pains is the latest footnote in the once promising career of Lindsay Lohan, a woman who at a time looked like the next Julia Roberts or Cameron Diaz. Initially pegged for theatrical release early this year, Labor Pains was instead bungled direct to DVD in the sparse home entertainment months of the summer, the distributors clearly having lost confidence in Lohan's star power and the overall quality of the film. To be fair Labor Pains is less noxious than some of the other atrocities in which Lohan has featured in recent years, and despite its mediocre standard the film would have had no trouble in securing a theatrical release at the height of the star's popularity five years ago. In many ways Labor Pains acts more as a commentary on Lohan's professional fortunes than anything else. There was a time when Lindsay could have guided an equally unimpressive film to $60 million at the box office. Now she's headlining mawkish DVD titles nobody cares about. Certainly by watching Labor Pains, the Zac Efrons and Megan Foxs of the world could have the thought of paparazzi partying scared out of their systems, less they should suffer the same fate as poor Lindsay.
After making too many mistakes at work, Thea (Lindsay Lohan, Mean Girls) is facing the harsh reality that she could soon be unemployed. This would mark disaster as not only is Thea behind in the rent but next year she has to put her kid sister (Bridgit Mendler, The Clique) through the expensive world of secondary education. In a bid to keep her job, Thea feigns pregnancy and remarkably the lie saves her, not only allowing her to stay on the payroll but also encouraging her colleagues to treat her with more warmth and respect. As the months go by and the lie gets bigger, Thea enjoys a promotion and a potential romance with Editor Nick (Luke Kirby, The Greatest Game Ever Played), but for how long can she keep the pregnancy charade going?
Labor Pains might make for an entertaining episode on a sitcom or a short and punchy comedic sketch, but the concept when hastily woven into a generic rom-com quickly tires. Things could have ended up a lot worse than the flat and insignificant final product, but with Lohan's name no longer a guaranteed pulling agent for tweenagers, who exactly is this for? The answer is sadly no one, unless of course you love nothing better than a bland and mostly unfunny mix of awkward comedy and tepid romance. The movie is unexciting and it's easy to tell that director Lara Shapiro wasn't really bothered about how it turned out. One can imagine a standard day on the Labor Pains set involved Lohan arriving hung-over, going through her lines once, after which Shapiro would simply point the camera at her and see what happened. Hardly a recipe for big screen magic, though probably useful if you're only interested in the paycheque at the day's end.
The performances are as unremarkable as the movie itself. Nobody really seems to care and so they coast along as best they can. Lohan goofs around a little bit, but overall the impression given is that she doesn't want to be playing such a generic part, her energy is dead, and any enthusiasm was invisible to my eye. Despite clearly having displayed a decreased interest in becoming a proper actor following several years of boozy crotch flaunting, Lohan must realize she has taken a mega step back in terms of career and frustratingly her salary probably mirrors the artistic regression. If she can't turn around and pull out something impressive in the next 18 months then forgettable fluff like this is where she'll be resigned to for good, another face added to the heap of wasted young talent that Hollywood has burnt out over the years.
The romance is largely quashed by the cold chemistry between Lohan and Kirby, the screenplay also crippled by its disturbing reliance on the standard rom-com stencil. There is nothing fresh about the relationship on show in Labor Pains, and despite a central idea that one would imagine could breed a thousand hilariously embarrassing situations the laughs aren't any more contemporary. The film throws up all of the most obvious and predictably strained curveballs that Thea might face, not feeling the need to provide a comedic scene that might live longer than a minute in the memory. I chuckled twice during Labor Pains, once at an acid tongued anecdote courtesy of Thea's gal pal (Cheryl Hines, RV) and another in a moment of disbelief. Those with less exposure to this sort of "wacky" spoofing might find more to enjoy, but sadly this old grouch has seen to many better examples of this type of comedy for something bland like Labor Pains to satisfy.
The movie makes a few fairly feeble attempts to add a genuine emotional undercurrent to proceedings (Thea has to care for her sister due to the untimely death of their parents) but these elements are undercooked and hampered by the unconvincing performances. I guess Labor Pains has an okay idea at its core but the execution is dull and charmless. Those hoping for a Lohan career recovery will have to wait at least a little longer.
The DVD comes with one half-hearted making of featurette and audio and video quality that does the job but hardly pushes DVD's technological boundaries. Basically the disc is just one more reason to leave this one be and put your hard earned cash someplace else.
Labor Pains is another guilty verdict for the Lohan hall of shame.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: First Look Pictures
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13