A Deadly Adoption full movie review - absurd, daring, dramatic, thrilling, and... wait, who's in this?
Now here is something you don't see everyday, or at least in a long while: a deadpan, totally serious, almost (sometimes) dramatic take on Lifetime movies-of-the-week on Lifetime.
If what my wife tells me is correct, A Deadly Adoption actually has practically the same plot as another Lifetime movie not too long ago - a pregnant woman with nefarious intentions gets her way between a husband, wife and their child and wreaks havoc while seemingly about an adoption scenario. This is, I'm sure, intentional on the parts of executive producers Will Ferrell and Adam McKay; they not too long ago made Casa de mi Padre, a stone-faced take-off on Spanish tela-novellas with Ferrell playing Mexican full-tilt, and Wiig herself was in a series on IFC, The Spoils of Babylon, which was also a take on soaps (the writer of this film, Andrew Steele, was one of the writers for Babylon).
But what a strange, entertaining beast this is. At first I wasn't sure what to make of it - is this really trying to be *serious*? How much of this is supposed to be a joke or a comedy? One may go into A Deadly Adoption with Ferrell and Wiig at the top of the cast and wonder what's up, if this is going to lampoon Lifetime movies. I should say it does, but not as much as I thought it would, or rather it's in small doses. There are lines and scenarios that are very funny, such as referring to the main couple's daughter's condition: "You know the dangers of diabetic ketoacidosis!" Or the fact that Ferrell's character, Robert Benson (like Bob Benson from Mad Men, I wonder, maybe just a coincidence), is now a reformed alcoholic who used to go on benders during his book tours... for books on financial advice.
And to be sure, at first, seeing Ferrell and Wiig delivering such earnest dialog, and just how they look is funny (Ferrell with a beard that could have easily been pasted on). But all of the other actors are the people who you would usually see in a Lifetime movie, and the director, Rachel Goldenberg, is not a Hollywood pro exactly. She has a wild mix of credits, from Asylum movies (Sherlock Holmes, to tie in with the 2009 movie) to actual TV movies of this ilk (Escape from Polygamy) and more recent comedy work. Steele has more of a foot in comedy, as a writer and collaborator on SNL, though he, the director, and the actors do a remarkable thing: they completely commit to the scenario, the drama around this crazy 'new woman' who comes in to turn everything upside down and cause violence and kidnapping and affairs revealed and shocks galore. And I wouldn't want it any other way.
I thought about other made-for-TV cable movies that come out, like the Sharknado movies and the like on the SyFy channel, which probably have about the same self-awareness as A Deadly Adoption. But I never see the actors in those movies - many of them are all but winking at the camera as they go to collect their quick paychecks to get eaten by CGI sharknados or Megapythons or whatever. Ferrel, Wiig and company aren't out to make anything cheap or silly here (though maybe the last scene is goofy, perhaps just like a Lifetime movie). The funny thing is, because Ferrell and Wiig and co-star Jessica Lowdnes play everything completely straight - and Ferrell and Wiig are better actors than a Lifetime movie should ever deserve - and it's all believable, sometimes verging on maybe, kinda, sorta being dramatic in a *good* way... until one realizes what they're saying, more often than not, is absurd, as are the situations they get themselves in.
The tropes are all recognizable if one is into Lifetime movies, and that's also the idea, from the happy white family and the "bad" girl that comes in to make things chaotic. It's not something that can be easily parsed into 'Oh, it's just a parody' or 'Oh, it's actually just another Lifetime movie with these actors'. I found myself laughing many times during A Deadly Adoption, if not during every scene. It's a wholly clever, successful experiment in poker-faced absurdism.