Michelle Buteau cradles her pregnant belly while talking to Ilana Glazer in 'Babes'.
(Neon)

‘Babes’ Review: Nothing Tests Friendship Like a Baby or Two

3/5 newborns

Life is great when you’re a bad bitch taking on the Big Apple with her bestie. But when one—and then both—said besties get pregnant, things get complicated.

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Thus begins Babes, the best friend/motherhood comedy starring Ilana Glazer as the free-spirited Eden and Michelle Buteau as the more level-headed Dawn. After hooking up with the preternaturally hot and sweet Claude (Stephen James), Eden finds out she’s pregnant. Facing single parenthood, Eden leans on Dawn for help, but Dawn has her hands full with her own kids.

It’s clear from the start that Babes is inspired by the legendary Broad City, in which Glazer starred from 2014 to 2019. Eden and Dawn have the exact same relationship as Ilana and Abbi. They’ve got a bottomless well of weird little traditions and inside jokes, and they’re so close that they send each other photos of their poo. However, Broad City fans who are hoping to dip back into what made that show so great will find a mixed bag in Babes.

While Ilana and Abbi fed off of each others’ mutually bonkers personalities, the chemistry feels off in Babes. Eden is basically Ilana, bursting with funny voices and over-the-top jokes. However, Dawn is too well-adjusted for the humor to land. Ilana and Abbi were both lovable dumpster fires, living in a funhouse New York City that was as bizarre as they were, but in the slightly toned-down world of Babes, Glazer’s schtick doesn’t hold up well on its own. The movie’s unbalanced dynamic also lays bare the tired trope of people of color moving heaven and earth to support white characters—or getting out of their way completely.

But, okay, if you manage to get over the fact that Babes isn’t Broad City and maybe it’s not even trying to be Broad City and Broad City is never coming back and you should probably just move on with your life, Babes actually does have some great moments. Buteau’s performance is fantastic, whether Dawn is hallucinating milk squirting from her nipples or commiserating about parenting struggles with her husband Marty (Hasan Minhaj). The movie has plenty of genuinely funny and moving scenes.

Babes also digs into some pretty important issues, albeit clumsily. Parenting is way harder than it needs to be, even when you’re a wealthy dentist (not that I would know, but I’ll take Dawn’s word for it). American culture simultaneously fetishizes childrearing and punishes those who actually do it. Finding childcare—or even a ride home from the hospital—should be easy, but instead it’s often impossible. People tend to disappear from their social scenes once they have kids, and that sucks for everyone. And yes, if you give birth vaginally, you’ll probably shit on your baby.

Overall, Babes is a heartfelt exploration of birth, parenting, and friendship. It’s also a zany comedy about wearing a prom dress to your own delivery. The problem is that it never manages to be both at the same time. Instead, it pings back and forth as it searches for its own emotional center.

Which, now that I think about it, sounds a lot like parenthood itself.

Babes hits theaters on May 17.


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Author
Julia Glassman
Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at <a href="https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/">https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/.</a>