Sunday, June 7, 2015

Double Daddy (Shadowland/Lifetime, 2015)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2015 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

Yesterday I was anxious to see the new Lifetime “world premiere” movie, Double Daddy, a silly title (their titles are getting sillier, anyway — next week they’re going to do the first showing anywhere of something called I Killed My B.F.F.!) The moment I saw Barbara Kymlicka’s name on the writing credits I knew we were in for trouble — in previous posts on her movies I’ve wondered why someone with such a penchant for writing sleazy stories about sex (though this time around she only adapted a story by someone else, Alan Donahue, into a screenplay) wouldn’t change her name instead of going through life with (and slapping on her credits) a moniker all too easily read as “cum licker”! Kymlicka did sneak this one into the same fictional universe as her previous Lifetime productions The Surrogate, Dirty Teacher and Sugar Daddies — the high-school kid at the center of the action, Connor (Cameron Palatas), debates, once he gets his girlfriend pregnant, whether to continue with his parents’ plan to send him to Whittendale University or stay in town and attend community college so he can continue to see his girlfriend after she gives birth and be as much of a father as possible to his baby girl. The reason this one is called Double Daddy is that Connor, whose sperm seems unerringly potent even for a movie character (as I’ve noted in these pages before, so many films revolve around what the late David O. Selznick called “infallible pregnancies at single contacts” that a being from another planet, trying to figure out how human reproduction works from watching our movies about it, would probably conclude that the human female invariably gets pregnant from her first act of intercourse with a human male), has knocked up not only his girlfriend Amanda (Mollee Gray — yet another young person who’s latched on to an incredibly pretentious spelling of an otherwise normal first name) but Heather Henderson (Brittany Connor — see above), who came on to him at a party he was hosting when his parents were out of town, insisted on him letting her into the Mercedes parked in his garage (it’s actually his dad’s car, and at that only a company car he’s allowed to drive for his work as an auto dealer), where she manages to overcome his drunken attempts to resist — he’s drunk because in the immediately preceding scene, he’s been challenged as president of the “fraternity” (a word which briefly threw me and made me think the young characters were already in college instead of only in high school) to drink a large tube of some devastatingly intoxicating libation — and get him not only to penetrate her but impregnate her as well. Then she uses social media to spread the word through the entire high school, including Amanda, that not only did she and Connor do the down ’n’ dirty in his daddy’s car but she became pregnant from it. Amanda predictably reacts with a hissy-fit of jealousy and, goaded by Heather, she picks a fight with her in the high-school hallway and knocks her down. Meanwhile she’s learned that she, too, is pregnant by Connor, and being a modern-day heroine in a story about high-school students in a generation for whom abortion is definitely not part of the Zeitgeist (the adults in the movie make a few minor noises about “options” but both Amanda and Heather insist that they’re keeping their babies — reflecting opinion polls that, contrary to the trend on same-sex marriage, younger people are less likely to be pro-choice on abortion than their forebears), she’s determined not only to have the child but to raise it.

If Donahue, Kymlicka and their director, Lee Friedlander (any relation to Louis Friedlander, a.k.a. Lew Landers, director of a million “B” movies in the 1930’s and 1940’s?) had been willing to stop there, they could have had an engaging drama about two young girls, both of whom are carrying the same boy’s children, making the best of an utterly wretched situation and putting all the respective parents on the spot as well — it’s established that Connor’s parents have money and that unsurprisingly doesn’t go unnoticed by both women in their son’s life, Amanda who he’s really in love with and Heather, whom he says was just a “mistake.” Instead the writers and directors boil the melodramatic plot still further, making Heather an all-out Lifetime villainess along the lines of the protagonists of The Surrogate and Dirty Teacher, and they also give her a mystery boyfriend, Trent (Tyson Sullivan, who frankly did more for me than Cameron Palatas did — Palatas is a nice-looking enough twink with an oddly anachronistic D.A. haircut but I couldn’t help but wish the part could have been played by the taller, darker and considerably handsomer Cameron Deane Stewart from Dirty Teacher), who only appears in a couple of scenes but says that he’s helped her pull this scam before — entrapping a high-school student into casual sex and then telling him she’s carrying his baby — has suffered through her miscarriages and isn’t going to let himself suffer financially because she can’t go through with the scam, whatever it is. It seems to be to get herself knocked up by the snot-nosed son of some rich guy and then hold the parents up for whatever she can get out of them financially to support “their” baby — though in order for the scheme to work she’d have to count on every kid she seduced in this fashion to have sperm as hyper-potent as Connor’s (either that or she and Trent have just seen too many movies and they believe a woman gets pregnant every time she has sex). Trent appears in one scene in the second act and then disappears until the movie is half over, by which time Connor’s mom has approached Heather’s scapegrace biker dad Keith (Darin Heames) and given him a check that’s meant to support Heather and her baby for the first eight years of the kid’s life — only Keith literally takes the money and runs, leaving both his daughter and her baby-to-be with no means of support. Accordingly Connor’s parents let Heather move in with them — until she steals Connor’s dad’s company Mercedes because (though they don’t know this) she needs it to drive Trent’s body out in the country so she can bury him after she’s tired of his demands and killed him in Connor’s family’s garage by clubbing him with a convenient wrench.

The climax takes place at a school field trip at a wildlife sanctuary; Connor and Amanda can go but, with no parent around to sign the necessary permission slip, Heather has to sneak in — whereupon she confronts Amanda, the two fall off a small cliff, and with Amanda unconscious Heather picks up a convenient rock and is about to do in her rival when — surprise! Not really — Heather goes into labor and Amanda has to do a bit of D.I.Y. midwifery to get her rival’s baby out of the womb safely. Meanwhile, Donahue and Kymlicka have also inserted a subplot about Amanda’s older sister and her husband, who have tried everything in the modern armamentarium to have a baby themselves — including fertility drugs and in vitro fertilization — only Amanda’s sister has stubbornly refused to conceive, so Amanda hits on the idea of giving her sister and her sister’s husband her child by Connor to raise as their own; as far as the kid (a girl, we’ve been told from the sonograms) will know, Amanda will simply be her aunt. For the last few acts it looks like this is actually what’s going to happen, but of course when Amanda actually gives birth (she’s shown with her baby one month after Heather gives birth to hers) her maternal instincts kick in big-time (just as Glenda Farrell’s did at the end of the 1932 film Life Begins) and she and Connor decide to keep the child themselves and raise her as their own. Meanwhile Heather is arrested for Trent’s murder and is offered a plea bargain that would make her eligible for parole in 20 years — otherwise she’s likely to be convicted and have to serve life — though for some reason Donahue and Kymlicka totally drop the fate of her baby. Where I thought this was going to go — or maybe it’s just where I’d like it to have gone — is that Amanda’s sister and her husband would adopt Heather’s baby, sparing the poor kid (we’re never told its gender!) the travails of foster care while leaving Amanda and Connor to raise their child. Instead the writers simply move on, leaving a live baby (we know it was born alive because we heard it cry as Amanda wrapped it in her jacket after helping Heather get it out of her womb) somewhere absent and unaccounted-for in the dramatis personae. Double Daddy isn’t a bad movie as Lifetime movies go, and the hot encounter between Connor and Heather at the beginning is a welcome return to the soft-core porn that made a lot of Lifetime productions memorable even if they weren’t particularly good as filmmaking, but the title already suggests a film treading on the thin edge of risibility and it does sometimes go over.