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Michelle Buteau and Ilana Glazer discuss the former's pregnancy before the latter goes through it in "Babes."

If you’re expecting Babes to be some ground-breaking, game-changing raunchy comedy about pregnancy, I’m afraid it’s not that. However, it is entirely pleasant, funny, and blessedly free of the pandering that features in so many Hollywood movies about giving birth. The film opened in a few Tarrant County theaters last week and expands to more this week, so you can see just how that works.

Ilana Glazer portrays Eden, a New York City yoga instructor whom we first see accompanying her best friend Dawn (Michelle Buteau) to the hospital as she goes into labor. Eden has never seen a live birth, and is scarred by the experience — when Dawn asks, “Did I shit on my baby?”, Eden responds, “It’s more like you babied on your shit” before running out of the delivery room to throw up. Soon thereafter she has to deal with motherhood much more personally, as a one-night stand with a charming actor (Stephan James) leads to her own pregnancy, despite Eden’s mistaken belief that she can’t get pregnant by having sex during her period. Dawn just shakes her head.

The film is occasionally not as funny as it thinks it is, and the actor’s freakish death feels like a bald contrivance — in movies, a woman’s chances of getting pregnant skyrocket if the man she has sex with dies shortly afterwards. Still, the set pieces land often enough, as when Dawn consults the identical twin brothers (Keith and Kenneth Lucas) who run her STD testing clinic to find out the father’s personal information. Deciding to keep the baby, Eden says, “It feels like destiny, and this is destiny’s child!” Dawn just shakes her head again, but later on, she screams “Whore!” at her nanny (Shola Adewusi) after the latter announces she’s leaving to work for a rich white family. Stuck babysitting Dawn’s toddler (Caleb Mermelstein-Knox), Eden bribes him into behaving himself by letting him watch The Omen. The fallout of that decision results in Dawn losing another nanny. All of it is done with unobtrusive grace by Pamela Adlon, the voice actress from King of the Hill and many other animated TV shows who’s directing her first feature film.

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The script by Glazer and Josh Rabinowitz focuses on the friendship between Eden and Dawn and how their respective pregnancies affect that. Honestly, I could have done without the note of codependency that creeps into their relationship. When the two women go away on a babymoon, the movie misses its chance to comment meaningfully on this trend. Then again, Eden runs into a masseuse (Kami Dimitrova) who can’t stop talking about her fears that her massages might kill the unborn child. As long as the jokes are firing, Babes is a welcome arrival on our screens.

Babes
Starring Ilana Glazer and Michelle Buteau. Directed by Pamela Adlon. Written by Ilana Glazer and Josh Rabinowitz. Rated R.

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