Will Ferrell is (mostly) dead serious in A Deadly Adoption.
  • Lifetime
  • Will Ferrell is (mostly) dead serious in A Deadly Adoption.

A week before the Will Ferrell/Kristen Wiig-helmed Lifetime movie A Deadly Adoption aired, the network premiered another original movie called I Killed My BFF. (Not to be confused with the Lifetime series I Killed My BFF. So many BFFs are being killed always.) Two women, a young single mom named Heather and a slightly older married one named Shane, meet in a maternity ward after their respective labors and forge a strong and immediate bond. Both of them are fucking nuts, so it’s a race to the finish to find out which one will be the titular BFF murderer (I won’t spoil it). The week before that, Double Daddy made its auspicious debut. A teen boy from a well-to-do family gets date-raped by a delusional girl—also named Heather—from the wrong side of the tracks, who purposely gets pregnant because she has designs on his family’s money. If that weren’t bad enough, he’s also gone and knocked up his kind, pretty girlfriend Amanda! In the movie’s climax, a very pregnant Heather attacks a very pregnant Amanda with a gigantic kitchen knife. They fall off a roughly 12-foot cliff, which sends Heather into labor, leaving Amanda to deliver the attempted murderer’s baby.

Suffice it to say, both of these movies were terrific.

Lifetime is forever outdoing itself, pumping out a never-ending supply of low-budget features that find outrageous ways to prey on women’s darkest and most irrational (or not) fears. The movies have slapdash scripts and questionable acting, and they perpetually fail to make their Canadian filming locations resemble American cities—that’s their appeal. In the spirit of self-imposed one-upmanship, it’s probably a logical next step to air a movie that has all the hallmarks of the genre the network created but features two of the funniest people on the planet playing it totally straight to highlight how funny these movies are at their core.

Will Ferrell plays Robert Benson, a guy who is pretty famous for being a person who writes books about personal finance. He lives in a small town with his wife, Sarah (Wiig), and daughter, Sully. In a flashback that sets the movie in motion (Lifetime movies always start with either a flashback or a flash forward), a visibly pregnant Sarah flips backward off their dock—thanks to a wobbly railing Robert neglected to fix—and subsequently miscarries. Robert descends into depression and alcoholism, but a few years later, with Robert back on the wagon, he and Sarah decide they’re ready to adopt. Rather than search for already born children, they begin interviewing pregnant women who’ve decided to find better homes for their babies. And so they meet Bridget, who’s pretty and sweet and seems like the right candidate. Because she lives in a homeless shelter, Robert and Sarah invite her to move in with them until the birth. But, wait! It turns out Bridget isn’t who she seems, and everything goes haywire, but I won’t say what because you should just watch it yourself.

It’s not a parody at all, rather a pretty authentic duplication of the Lifetime formula by comedy writer Andrew Steele (SNL, The Spoils of Babylon). There are exploited fears aplenty—the loss of a pregnancy, marital infidelity, the kidnapping of a child—a woman-on-woman physical showdown, and even a tonally off happy-ending dance sequence. Still it felt like Steele played it a little safe to prevent the movie from resembling a parody. It could have been way more ridiculous than it was.

As an avid viewer of Lifetime movies, I had trouble parsing my feelings about A Deadly Adoption. My enjoyment hinges on their sincerity—even if I’m kidding myself, I like to believe that most of these movies are made entirely in earnest by professional people who are adults and who think that these stories are remotely plausible and will be accepted as such by the audience. If I know that they know their films are ridiculous it saps some joy from the experience.

(My other thought was that Wiig and Ferrell are basically taking food out of the mouths of stalwart Lifetime actors like William R. Moses, Gail O’Grady, and Barbara Niven, but, c’mon, they’re doing fine.)

This Saturday, Lifetime premieres Perfect High, a movie about a bunch of high school girls who get hooked on prescription drugs. It stars no one in particular (besides Bella Thorne, who I’m vaguely familiar with) and was written by a lady who’s mostly known for editing reality shows like Kitchen Nightmares—I’m really looking forward to it.