Maybe Baby

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Details At A Glance

Category Romantic Comedy Main Menu Audio
Interviews - Cast and Crew
Television Spots
Notes - Novel
Biographies - Cast
Theatrical Trailer - 1.85:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 (2:14)
Notes - CD
DVD Credits
Year Released 1999
Running Time 100:33 minutes
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 4 Director Ben Elton
Siren Entertainment
Starring Hugh Laurie
Joely Richardson
Rowan Atkinson
Emma Thompson
Dawn French
Joanna Lumley
James Purefoy
Case Transparent Soft Brackley
RPI Rental Only Music Colin Towns

Pan & Scan/Full Frame No English (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision ? Smoking Yes
Subtitles None Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    It never ceases to amaze me the quotes that distributors manage to track down when promoting their product. It is not so much that they create utter disbelief, but rather that someone, somewhere is so capable of writing such utter manure. Here we have a classic case. According to an unnamed reviewer in the magazine Elle, "if you liked Notting Hill you are going to love this". Well, it just so happens that I love Notting Hill, in my view one of the best romantic comedies of the past decade and a terrific British film. Did I love Maybe Baby? I think not. Liked definitely, but not loved. Maybe Baby is not a patch on Notting Hill in any respect, and I simply cannot see how a critic could make such a comparison or such a statement, other than for the fact that they were paid to say it.

    That is not to say that I disliked Maybe Baby, as I did find it quite enjoyable. What it does mean is that unlike Notting Hill which regularly makes an appearance in my player, often late at night when the melancholy mood hits, this is not a film that is likely to make regular appearances in the same manner. Considering it stars an actress that for some reason I find quite appealing, that is saying something. To be honest, I think part of the reason is because debut director Ben Elton did not quite get control of the film and some of the sub-plots could have been excised with ease without losing the integrity of the film. Still, it was based on his book Inconceivable so I guess he can make whatever decisions he likes about the screenplay.

    The broad story here is about Sam (Hugh Laurie) and Lucy Bell (Joely Richardson). He is a struggling script writer working at the BBC and she is an agent at an artistes representative agency. Lucy is desperate for a child and has Sam hopping to the task at the drop of a hat. Sam is perhaps not so desperate for a child but nonetheless does his best to serve Lucy's needs. However, after much lack of success, it is clear that something is amiss and so alternatives to plain old sex are warranted. And so we find the Bells resorting to such unlikely remedies as aromatherapy, courtesy of slightly wacky Druscilla (Emma Thompson), and shagging on the leylines of Primrose Hill. Even consulting the slightly wackier gynaecologist Mr James (Rowan Atkinson) fails to improve the pregnancy situation and so the IVF program is the last resort. Of course whilst all this is going on Sam is having problems at the BBC and rapidly finds himself in need of a script with which to resurrect his career. Blessed with chronic writer's block, he resorts to writing a script about something he knows all too well - the fun to be had by an infertile couple trying unsuccessfully for a child. Lucy on the other hand has to endure the attentions of a new client in Carl Phipps (James Purefoy), adding just a little more distraction to the situation. Through the inspired writing of Sam, his film comes to pass and goes into production with Ewan Proclaimer (Tom Hollander) at the helm, whom Sam has previously had a run in with over a script Ewan pitched to the BBC and which Sam turned down. The rest is left for the film.

    Whilst I would hardly call the screenplay a masterpiece, it certainly has its moments and overall I cannot help but feel that had this been put into the hands of a more experienced director, the result would have been somewhat more engrossing than here. A bit of judicious trimming and perhaps a bit more development of certain parts of the film would have provided far greater reward for the viewer. However, it has to be said that the underlying huge dig at the BBC certainly was handled brilliantly by Ben Elton and this fair old backhander at that staid old organization is a clear highlight of the film. The casting here is also perhaps not quite the best, but they give it a decent go as far as making the film work. Hugh Laurie was his usually reliable self and Joely Richardson was not that bad at all. The main problems are the almost cameo appearances of Emma Thompson and Dawn French. Emma Thompson's role was almost superfluous to the film and could cheerfully have been excised. In the end it came over as a friend helping out another friend by allowing her name to be used to generate interest in the film. On the other hand Dawn French's role was one that could have been expanded somewhat as she is a genuinely funny part of the film. As indicated, this is the directorial debut for Ben Elton and it does show a little. Nonetheless, there is enough here to indicate that he may have some future in not just writing comedy but also in directing it.

    Maybe Baby is certainly not a classic of a film but it has its moments, even if they tend to be a little too few to keep the comedy level up high. It has certain plusses, not the least of which is Joely Richardson in assorted underwear or less, but this is not the sort of film that is going to generate queues out the video store door. This is an average film that is maybe worth a rent if you have seen all the better romantic comedies available at the video store, but there really are many better than this around in Region 4.

Transfer Quality


    There is certainly something a little odd about a recent film that demonstrates all the sharpness and detail of a film ten to twenty years older. Even though this was made in 1999, this transfer really makes it look like it was made in 1989. The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer has a dullish, flattish look to it that is most disappointing. The overall look is just a little diffuse and actually reminds me an awful lot of the generally flattish and slightly out-of-focus look that annoys me so much when I do occasionally visit our local cinema. It is by no means unwatchable, but it just seems odd that this is not a lot sharper than it is. Detail suffers a little as a result and at times there is not a huge depth of field to the image. Shadow detail is okay, but mainly because it does not come into play that often. The clarity of the transfer is decent, not exactly crystal clear and with just the odd hint of grain to add into the mix. There did not appear to be any significant low level noise problems with the transfer.

    In keeping with the overall feel of the transfer, the colours are just a little on the muted side throughout. Whilst the overall result is not entirely displeasing, and at times is quite reasonably natural-looking, I would have expected just a little more brightness to the colours. There is nothing in the way of oversaturation here - since undersaturation seems to be the norm - and you can forget colour bleed. Certainly skin tones are quite well-handled.

    There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There did not appear to be any significant film-to-video artefacts in the transfer. There is not much in the way of film artefacts in the transfer, befitting the recent vintage of the film.

    This is a single layer, single sided DVD and I cannot help but wonder whether the softness of the transfer is the result of slightly insufficient space for data compression of this reasonable length film. This is especially the case when one considers the reasonable extras package on the DVD. Perhaps this would be better served by remastering into a dual layer format?

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-to-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There is but one soundtrack on offer on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. This seems just a little odd for a film of such recent vintage, but then again I suppose the film really does not require much from the soundtrack. There are certainly no really extended sequences where the lack of the added presence of the additional channels is noted.

    The dialogue comes up well in the soundtrack and is always easy to understand. There did not seem to be any problems with audio sync in the transfer.

    The original music score comes from Colin Towns and the fact that I cannot really remember a fat lot about it would indicate that it was not especially memorable. The theme song is a remake of the old Buddy Holly hit done by Paul McCartney - it's amazing what you can get done when you call up a few friends!

    Within the context of what is offered in the way of a soundtrack, there is nothing much to worry about. Obviously lacking anything in the way of surround and bass channel use, it does what it is asked to do pretty well, albeit in a somewhat undistinguished manner.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Somewhat unusually for a rental release, there is a decent enough extras package on offer here.


    Featuring some audio and not an awful lot more. The navigation is a bit difficult as the highlight is not exactly doing its job too well. All menus are 16x9 enhanced.

Interviews - Cast and Crew (16:01)

    These are a collection of short interview snippets from Ben Elton (7, 7:35), Joely Richardson (4, 3:30) and Hugh Laurie (4, 4:56) that are presumably taken from a longer interview session. Annoyingly, the snippets appear to be looped and will continue playing ad nauseum unless you hit the menu button to return to the menu. Also annoyingly, the first few moments of the interviews are silent as the sound takes a little while to kick in. They are presented in a Full Frame format, are not 16x9 enhanced and come with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound that sounds more like 1.0. Okay, but the delayed audio is a grating problem. However, I feel the whole thing would have been improved if we had the full interviews and if some slightly more exhilarating questions had been posed.

Television Spots (1:06)

    Comprising a 20 second and a 40 second spot, there is actually not an awful lot of difference between the two. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, they are not 16x9 enhanced and come with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. The 40 second spot seems to contain a glitch inasmuch as it starts, then stops and goes to a black screen briefly before restarting. It also suffers a slight delay in the sound commencing. They both suffer somewhat from shimmer in the background. Okay I guess overall, but hardly riveting inclusions.

Notes - Novel

    Nothing more than a plug for the book upon which the film is based.

Biographies - Cast

    Covering all the main cast members, they are not exactly expansive and do not really contain enough detail about their filmographies. The navigation of them is also a bit of sod and takes a fair bit of getting used to - not being aided by the non-highlighting highlighter.

Theatrical Trailer (2:14)

    Acceptable by modern standards, but hardly sublime work. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. It does have some problem with noise in the image.

Notes - CD

    Nothing more than a plug for the CD soundtrack of the film.

DVD Credits

R4 vs R1

    This film does not yet appear to have been scheduled  for release in Region 1.


    Whilst it is certainly not a film in the same excellent vein as Notting Hill or Four Weddings And A Funeral, as long as you do not come to the film expecting it to be, you will probably enjoy it. However, it has to be said that Maybe Baby does come into a very competitive romcom market and it is difficult to recommend this as a rental in preference to other films available on DVD. Some might find the choice of the subject matter for a comedy to be a little upsetting, but I felt that the whole film was done in a generally tasteful manner. And that might just be its downfall - it tried not to offend anyone whilst trying to take the mickey out of what is for many couples a heart-wrenching time.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
25th January 2001

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 80cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL