I’m not quite sure how to describe my experience watching A Deadly Adoption. The new Lifetime movie written by Andrew Steele (SNL, The Spoils of Babylon) and directed by Rachel Goldenberg truly defies all attempts at analyzation or explanation. My capacity to form rational thoughts regarding the nature of its existence has escaped me. It is, quite frankly, one of the most baffling things I’ve ever seen in all my life, a glorious prank played on the viewing public by the wily Will Ferrell and the krazy kewl Kristen Wiig. It laughs in the face of feeble logic and expectation, defying both to become something truly otherworldly. It’s bad in the special kind of way that only Lifetime movies can be and if its existence isn’t one of the signs of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse, I’m not sure what is.
In case you’re not in the know, let me provide some backstory on the film. Word got out a few months back that Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig had starred in a very secret Lifetime project. Once the story broke, both Ferrell and Wiig insisted that the project had been cancelled due to the surprise being ruined. But this was just a ploy, you see, and this past weekend the world finally got a glimpse at the madness of A Deadly Adoption.
The main storyline (a title card boldly states, “Inspired by a True Story.” God help us.) follows Robert Benson (Ferrell), a best-selling author who rose to the annals of celebrity writer by penning financial self-help books. (Yes, this is the kind of movie that doesn’t even question how a writer of financial aid books could attain levels of popularity akin to Stephen King) His wife Sarah runs her own moderately successful organic foods business. We’re introduced to them right after they’ve had their first child and Sarah is pregnant with their second. Everything in their lives is perfect, but then Robert has to go and ruin everything by spouting a stupid line like, “Nothing’s ever gonna pull me away from my family!” Clearly he doesn’t realize that in a Lifetime movie a line like this is sure to spell disaster and sure enough Sarah falls prey to an accident that costs them their unborn child and the ability to have children in the future. (Said accident involves her standing on their shabby wooden dock and it collapsing while she falls into the water in dramatic slow motion while Ferrell screams, sans audio. The comic genius of this moment is such that I can’t possibly hope to do it justice in words. Much like how Morpheus describes the Matrix to Neo, ‘you have to see it for yourself’ to understand its wonders.)
Five years later the dock is gone and Robert and Sarah, whose physical appearances haven’t changed one iota, are raising their now six-year-old daughter Sully. But their marriage is struggling. Robert has been distant ever since the accident and is six months sober from the alcoholic stint it inspired. The only thing he shows any passion for is Sully and he is far too overprotective of her. He won’t even let her ride a bike without training wheels! (“Not until you graduate from college,” he says, further proving that this dialogue is just way too good) Robert and Sarah have been looking into adopting a child, but aren’t having much luck with the birth mothers they’ve encountered. Enter Bridgette Gibson (played by Jessica Lowndes, a.k.a. semi-Megan Fox). She’s gorgeous (despite the fact that she supposedly lives in a shelter, her hair, makeup, and fashion sense are flawless), a bit disconnected from reality, and very pregnant. She hits it off with the pair instantly, and for some insane reason, they invite her to live with them during the final months of her pregnancy. Of course, since this is a Lifetime movie, turns out Bridgette is not quite what she seems and the whole thing descends into madness – sheer, manic madness.
Perhaps the most perplexing thing about A Deadly Adoption is that it is utterly sincere in the telling of this story. If not for the presence of Ferrell and Wiig, you’d have no idea this was a put-on. Everything from the painful script to the film school cinematography is completely on point and at no moment does anyone involved ‘wink’ at the camera to let us in on the joke. It’s completely straightfaced and avant garde out the a. Its dedication to being a legit Lifetime movie is both its greatest comic asset and its greatest storytelling weakness. Nothing makes any sense, painful cliches abound, and everything is broken. Yes, you will laugh your ass off at times, but at other points you will be bored out of your skull. It’s the price you pay for willingly subjecting yourself to something like this and you have only yourself to blame for your now shattered soul.
Performance-wise, A Deadly Adoption is revelatory in all the wrong ways. Ferrell has clearly been waiting his entire life to turn in a performance like this. He flawlessly captures all the quirks and nuances of the Lifetime lead protagonist performance. Wiig is perfectly oblivious as his estranged wife, though given far less to work with to the point where she almost totally disappears into the role. Lowndes gives a great, dead-eyed turn as Bridgette, who, no surprise, turns out to be totally bat s***.
Can I legitimately recommend A Deadly Adoption? Absolutely. If you are craving the kind of terrible that can only come from a Lifetime production, go for it. I highly recommend watching it with a large group of people who are just as crazy as you are and suggest at least some level of inebriation to get the full effect of its insanity. But the film’s brilliance lies solely in its insistence that the whole thing be played straight and, therefore, does not end up being anything more than your standard, ridiculous Lifetime movie, albeit one which stars Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig.
Proceed at your own risk. Your life will never be the same.
“She passed out like a log.”
“A happy log.”
“I don’t really eat breakfast.”
“Don’t forget your emergency sack!”
“It must get hard, Robert.”
“Can I feel?” (Sarah’s creepy friend Charlie, referring to Bridgette’s pregnant belly. Seriously, I can’t even.)
And my personal favorite, which works much better when you actually see Ferrell deliver it:
“You know the dangers of diabetic ketoacidosis!”