You have to put a lot of effort in if you want to get a perfect score in anything worthwhile, and the reverse is also true: if you want to score a pure 0%, you still have to work pretty damn hard. After forgetting to put your name at the top of the quiz, you basically need to know the right answers to all of the questions in order to then select the wrong answers, which, of course, begs the question as to why you didn’t just shoot for the A+ instead. This would be nearly paradoxical if it wasn’t just a plainly obvious certainty.
A Deadly Adoption is a bit like that, except that the people intentionally flunking the exam are getting paid handsomely to do it and their classmates are zipping around the playground after the period’s over spreading the word about how cool they are. Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig have been getting pretty good grades so far, but now that the popular table has…aw, f*ck it. Extended metaphors are for the more involved. Besides, we’re talking about passing/failing something worthwhile, which is a thing A Deadly Adoption is absolutely not.
Ostensibly a sort of parody of Lifetime Original movies, A Deadly Adoption‘s funniest trait is its ability to make people fall over in praise of how brilliant it is while retaining none of the characteristics of an actual parody: it is a Lifetime movie, through and through. Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig play husband and wife Robert and Sarah Benson, L.L. Bean’d suburbanites haunted by a past accident and hopeful for the adoption of a second child. It’s played completely straight from start to finish, with not a hint of satire betrayed by the writing or by the visual storytelling or by the delivery of the dialogue. It’s just…a Lifetime movie.
Maybe it’s because Ferrell and Wiig are here, or because Adam McKay’s name pops up in the credits, or because the writer is Andrew Steele who wrote The Spoils of Babylon (although that wasn’t funny either, nor serious, nor worth watching) — because there are funny people here, A Deadly Adoption must be funny, yeah? They’re pulling a prank, see, by pretending to be so serious. Get it? The visual storytelling does contain satire, you guys, because…guys…ah, heck. I burned out again.
Watching A Deadly Adoption is like watching a boat get lowered into the water (“the extended metaphor failed — deploy more!“), which is something else I did yesterday. Is watching A Deadly Adoption like watching a boat get lowered into the water? Maybe not. Maybe it’s just a stillborn too-long reel of Ferrell and Wiig saying words back and forth while wearing neutral canvas clothing and moving from room to room of their modern suburban home and waiting for brunch to roll around. You beg for something to compare it to in the same manner as you beg for anything lifelike to emerge from the sheer stagnancy. There’s nothing. This is an intentional 0%, meaning that all involved set out to write a movie that is intentionally bad. Let’s let that sink in for a second.
The other thing I did yesterday — wedged in between the plain “oh, that’s it?” experience of watching a crane with a boat on it go from the Up position to the Down position and the impressively more mind-numbing experience of watching A Deadly Adoption — was to go see Pixar’s new movie Inside Out. The verve of this film! The energy! The unbearable lightness! The highs! The lows! It’s one of the best Pixar films in a long time, representing the broad scope and straight-up love of cinema that the best Pixar films all have in spades. Even the worst ones have that love of cinema, actually. Before
Inside Out played a short clip of director Pete Docter came up on screen, which he used to thank the audience for seeing his movies. He said he makes them to share something about the experience of life, and that this only works if there’s someone on the other end of the line listening. This sentiment is a big part of the film itself, too, because without other people our personal emotions would hold far less significance.
A Deadly Adoption has pretty much everyone fooled. Rolling Stone ran “10 Most Brilliantly Lifetime-Gasmic Moments in A Deadly Adoption” while others trip over themselves trying to find similar points of hilarity, or overblown self-seriousness. Don’t fall for it. There’s no life in A Deadly Adoption, a movie intentionally forced into a middle ground just to see if people would still laud it. Shockingly, it worked. François Truffaut demanded “that a film express either the joy of making cinema or the agony of making cinema. I am not at all interested in anything in between; I am not interested in all those films that do not pulse”. A Deadly Adoption is more than that (or less; remember: 0%) because it doesn’t pulse on purpose. It would almost be insulting if it wasn’t so damn mediocre.