Dir: Ben Elton. UK. 2000. 102 mins.
Prod Co: Pandora/BBC Films. Int'l sales: Pandora Cinema (+33 1 40 70 90 90). Prod: Phil McIntyre. Exec prods: Ernst Goldschmidt, David M Thompson. Assoc Prod: Lucy Ansbro. Scr: Ben Elton. DoP: Roger Lanser. Prod Des: Jim Clay. Ed: Peter Hollywood. Mus: Colin Towns. Main cast: Hugh Laurie, Joely Richardson, Adrian Lester, James Purefoy, Tom Hollander.
A witty, big-hearted comedy on the pitfalls and pratfalls of procreation, Maybe Baby marks a pleasing directorial debut for multi-talented writer-performer Ben Elton. Aimed at an older, more sophisticated audience than the Kevin & Perry school of British comedy, its slick storytelling, romantic air and home-grown cast should earn it a decent share of the Notting Hill crowd for UK distributor Redbus on its release today. The lack of an A-list star may restrict its potential internationally but Hugh Laurie's Stuart Little connection will do it no harm.
Confirming his leading man status, Laurie brings a great deal of understated charm and comic skill to his role as Sam Bell, a commissioning editor at the BBC frustrated by his job and keen to prove himself as a screenwriter. Loving wife Lucy (Richardson) works for a theatrical agency. Together they have an enviable lifestyle, blighted only by their inability to conceive a child.
Preoccupied with ovulation charts and alternative therapies, Elton's screenplay mercifully sidesteps some of the more obvious farcical potential in the situation to show the way in which the couple's relationship is tested by her attraction to handsome actor Carl Phipps (Purefoy) and his clandestine plotting to turn their reproductive problems into a hit screenplay.
Attractive lensing from Roger Lanser and a roster of star cameos from local favourites like Rowan Atkinson, Dawn French and Emma Thompson should boost the film's status as a sure summer hit on its home territory. It will also help counter any resistance to a slightly self-indulgent project derived from Elton's own experience as an aspiring parent and set among the pretensions of recognisable London media types.