It took several attempts using a number of creative positions, but Judge Clark Douglas finally conceived a review.
It takes more than sex to make a baby.
"The next time I'm feeling even remotely sexy, I'll let you know."
Facts of the Case
Nine different women are about to get pregnant. Some of them will be thrilled, some of them will be disappointed and some will simply be confused. This film tells nine different stories about these women and their respective partners, detailing the events that transpired prior to the moment of conception.
At a first glance, Josh Stolberg's comedy Conception looks like a low-budget variation on those insufferable Gary Marshall ensemble comedies Valentine's Day and New Year's Eve. However, there are a couple of key differences. First of all, the lives of the assorted characters don't actually intersect—we've essentially got a bunch of mostly unrelated short stories that use impregnation as connecting thread. Secondly, Stolberg's comedy isn't actually all that insufferable. On occasion, it's actually quite good.
The film rotates between its countless stories so it can deliver nine punchlines simultaneously, but I can't help but wonder if the flick would have been better off as a more straightforward assembly of short films. I'm almost positive that it would have been better off if it had decreased the number of characters we're asked to keep up with. Let's take a look at the stories featured in the film:
Gloria (Connie Britton, Friday Night
Lights) and Brian (Jason Mantzoukas, The
League), a married couple desperate to have a child. Britton and Mantzoukas
share terrific chemistry together, and their story contains more than a few
moments of truthful wit. Britton in particular is a joy as she nails some tricky
pieces of comic timing.
Eric (Aaron Ashmore, Smallville) and Carla (Leah Pipes,
The Sarah Connor Chronicles), a young couple on the verge of breaking up
due to Eric's gambling problem. Shrill and obnoxious, this tale takes two
unlikable characters to a bland finish line.
Tracy (Sarah Hyland, Modern Family)
and J.T. (Matt Prokop, Furry
Vengeance), two teenagers preparing to lose their virginity under unusual
circumstances. Tracy has promised to give herself to J.T.—but only if J.T.
agrees to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle. There are some genuinely sweet moments
contained in this tale, but the concluding scene feels too much like teenagers
written by a grown-up.
Tiffany (Julie Bowen, Lost) and Will
(Gregory Smith, Rookie Blue), a couple
with a significant age difference who decide to spice things up a bit by making
a sex tape. It's a slight section, but the goofball humor it contains delivers
Bree (Leila Lee, The Life Coach) and Joel (Steve Howey, Shameless), a couple having an affair.
I wish I could tell you more about them, but their story is so uneventful that
it hardly merits commenting on.
Mark (Alan Tudyk, Suburgatory) and
Gwen (Jennifer Jostyn, Deep Impact), a married couple who welcomed their
first child into the world just six weeks ago. Mark is eager to make love to his
wife again, but she claims she's nowhere close to being ready. Deeply
affectionate and frequently funny, it's another story that benefits immensely
from strong chemistry between the actors.
Nikki (Moon Bloodgood, Falling Skies) and Tay (Pamela Adlon,
Californication), a lesbian couple finally deciding to have their first
child after reaching their tenth anniversary. One of the more uneventful
stories, but appealing nonetheless due to the low-key, naturalistic dialogue.
Brad (Jonathan Silverman, Weekend at Bernie's) and Laurie
(Jennifer Finnigan, Better with You), a married couple struggling to keep
their sex life interesting. Some nice observations are made, but this one
doesn't really go anywhere.
Tommy (Tim Griffin, Prime
Suspect) and Gina (America Olivo, Transformers: Revenge of the
Fallen), a couple whose steamy relationship frequently pauses for arguments
about whether there's a difference between sweat generated during sex and sweat
generated playing sports outside. The bulk of the film's nudity is contained in
this section, but the jokes fall flat.
It's safe to say that the assorted plot strands are all over the map, but there's enough quality to make it relatively easy to sit through the less engaging stuff. I'm not sure that Conception has much to say as a whole (it's bookended by adorable scenes of a flustered David Arquette attempting to explain where babies come from to young children, and the film itself seems to answer those questions with a simple, "They come from all kinds of different circumstances!"), but the little observations about long-term relationships occasionally offer surprising insight. It's not quite Woody Allen or Ingmar Bergman, but it's definitely better than the film's very low IMDb user rating would have you believe.
Conception has received a middling standard-def transfer, but I suspect that part of the film's ugly look has to do with the way it was shot. Numerous scenes suffer from poor lighting, as shadows overwhelm the actors in artless fashion. Detail is okay when we can actually see, so storylines which take place in brightly-lit rooms or outside during the daytime tend to fare best. The Dolby 2.0 Stereo track is pretty clunky as well, with a lot of the dialogue sounded hollow and distant (the opening scene with Arquette just sounds awful). Supplements include a brief interview with director Josh Stolberg and producer Leila Charles Leigh, 38 minutes of deleted scenes and 25 minutes of outtakes. A whole lot of stuff was trimmed from this thing, but I'm not sure I'd want it to be much longer than it is.
Not all of Conception works, but I'm pleased to report that it's a good deal more amusing and honest than the average rom-com (like the Stolberg-penned Good Luck Chuck, for instance) thanks to the ambitious writing and solid performances. It's worth a look.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: New Video
• Deleted Scenes
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