Well, it was real. After months of mixed messages and what seemed like really terrible trolling, last night Lifetime really did air a movie starring Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig titled A Deadly Adoption to mark the 25th anniversary of Lifetime movies. In theory, that should have been great news. In reality, I wish it never happened.
If you were in the mood to watch a mediocre Lifetime thriller that borrowed plots from a dozen movies that came before it and happened to star two great comedians who were totally wasted in their roles, then congratulations, this movie must have really hit the spot. On the other hand, if you were looking forward to a hilarious, laugh-out-loud spoof of Lifetime’s programming with an outrageous script and over-the-top performances from its brilliantly funny leads, we should get together to form some kind of club of disappointment.
A Deadly Adoption tells the story of Sarah and Robert Benson (Wiig and Ferrell), a couple with a young daughter who decide to adopt another child five years after Sarah somehow lost her baby and became infertile by almost drowning in a lake They decide to let Bridgette (Jessica Lowndes), the pregnant mother of their future child, live with them. Things take a turn for the crazy when Bridgette turns out to not be who they think she is. On paper, this is generic Lifetime movie fare, but considering the leads, one would assume it would be a hilarious spoof. And one would be wrong.
What I was expecting was an exaggeration of Lifetime’s cheesiest tropes, kind of like the ones 30 Rock used to reference. A Dog Took My Face And Gave Me A Better Face To Change The World: The Celeste Cunningham Story, which actually starred Kristen Wiig, would have been amazing turned into a full-length movie.
Instead, we got a movie that, had it not starred two famous people, would have gotten lost amidst all the other crazy lady stories Lifetime has aired. In a few months I would be racking my brain trying to tell it apart from The Surrogate or Damaged or A Mother’s Nightmare, the other movie where Jessica Lowndes plays a manipulative psycho. A Deadly Adoption wasn’t even funny by Lifetime standards. I laughed much more watching The Girl He Met Online and Megachurch Murder than I did last night.
And apparently my lack of amusement is what Lifetime was going for, contrary to what early reports suggested, since exec Tanya Lopez recently said, and I quote, “It’s not a comedy.” My response to that is, “WHY THE HELL NOT?” You hired two of the funniest people on the planet, both of whom have done countless spoofs, and you’re just going to have them act out your average throwaway TV movie? And why would you have Andrew Steele, who co-wrote an actual spoof called The Spoils of Babylon, pen the screenplay? This whole thing is the definition of a missed opportunity.
To be honest, Lopez’s declaration that this was meant to be serious is also baffling to me because there were a few (I repeat, a few) moments which showed the potential for comedy. Kristen falling into the lake in slow motion, coupled with the preposterous consequences, made me chuckle simply because it was so early in the movie and I was grasping onto anything mildly funny. Will’s job as a financial writer somehow garnering him promiscuous book tour groupies seemed like an attempt at parody. Unfortunately, you’d have to go pretty far out there to beat the kinds of illogical plotlines you find in real Lifetime movies. Close, but no cigar.
There were also handful of moments towards the end, like Will dramatically carrying Kristen’s unconscious body out of their garage, or the family dancing like idiots in their kitchen for the final scene, that nailed the kind of tone most of us were hoping for. Unfortunately they only made up a minute or two of screen time out of two hours.
If you thought this movie was funny — and based on Twitter it seems like plenty of people did — that’s great. However, I’m just going to have to assume you’ve never seen a Lifetime movie before. To borrow a metaphor from This is Spinal Tap (another actual spoof), if the most ridiculous Lifetime movie ever goes up to 10 on the ridiculous scale, this movie should have been an 11. But it was barely an 8.