A Deadly Adoption (2015)
by Michael J. Ferrari
“The Hand That Rocks The Cradle is the hand that rules the world” started out as a poem, and then became Julianne Moore’s signature line in one our favorite Thrillers. The early 90’s was a glorious time for the “Fill in the Blank From Hell” sub-genre. So many of those Movies occupied our cultural landscape. I had almost forgotten how much fun it all was, even if critics at the time were constantly sneering in disfavor (they probably still do).
Since then, Lifetime Television and its ilk have been developing their own brand of “…From Hell” Movies - adjusting them to be a bit softer, easier to consume and meant to fit right into the status quo. Enough (lack of) thrills and (lack of) tension to satisfy the least discriminate viewer. If that sounds like I’m being harsh on the Network, well, I don’t mean it quite so cruelly. Those Films have their place in a world where we flock to shitty Michael Bay “Transformers” Movies and the latest cheap “Found Footage” Horror flick. There’s a lack of craftsmanship in a lot of what’s coming out today, but it doesn’t mean you won’t always be entertained. No-frills entertainment is, after all, what it’s all about in two hours or less, including commercials for cars, coffee, detergent and spots for annoying reality shows.
"A Deadly Adoption", which stars Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig, is, I’m happy to report, a sly satire of the Lifetime “...From Hell” cycle. It’s played so straight you forget that there is a joke here. More perceptive audiences will be hip to it. Yes, it’s one, long joke, but played with the best poker faces imaginable. Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig are mixing it up here, allowing themselves to become second rate Actors in a second rate Movie because it’s just fun. The idea of Will Ferrell, who is gloriously (and scarily!) wigged and bearded and Kristen Wiig playing only to the drama of such a ridiculous scenario for me makes it far funnier than letting everyone in on the joke with a wink. These Movies are not meant to be taken seriously, so naturally it’s funny that they are taken that way. Though I’d imagine the actors having a good laugh about it away from the Production.
The Movie has a bunch of setups and payoffs and twists and turns that any viewer of Lifetime or some of the lesser 90’s Thrillers would see coming a million miles away. And that’s exactly what was fun about it. You can sit there and say, oh, that illness is coming back to haunt this person, and oh, so and so was a former boozer, you just know a bottle of whiskey is coming out. And, oh boy, that one’s being noisy!! Notice I’m trying to be tip toe to avoid any spoilers. Funny since you know exactly what you are getting into by the first few minutes. My favorite moment in the Movie? When Will Ferrell rattles off the full name for a certain disease. It’s such a subtle, funny moment.
I miss a time when actors would try to break out of the conventionality of their careers. Kristen Wiig is easily one of the best to emerge from the last several years. She landed herself a huge hit with “Bridesmaids” and has refused to do a sequel in lieu of more interesting and dark projects like “Welcome to Me”, “The Skeleton Twins”, “Girl Most Likely” and “Hateship Loveship”. Soon she’ll be in the potential blockbuster “Ghostbusters” reboot and several other big projects, but we know her heart is in taking chances along with paying the bills (but let’s forget that "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" ever happened). Will Ferrell is also no stranger to satire. He and Adam McKay (who both produced this Lifetime Movie) supply steady streams of it in their bawdy Comedies and online videos. I would point out that ‘Stepbrothers” from 2008 had a nice, surprising heap of it.
I feel like a lot of people will shrug this Movie off for being generic. But it’s generic quality is both comforting and on point with what the Lifetime Network does and will continue to do after the dusts settles from such stars headlining one of their projects. I’m of the mind that more Movie stars took such chances in their career. You have very popular actors like George Clooney and Brad Pitt, but you don’t see them starring in such trivial stuff. They are happy to sit squarely in their big budget, high-minded fare, hopefully baiting an Oscar or two in the process. I would love to see them in a Slasher Movie. Why can’t it be Meryl Streep revealed as the killer in a new "Scream" Movie? That would be glorious. She does have that Wes Craven connection, after all... You know someone like Charlize Theron is down for it. We need more people willing to surprise, even if it’s in something your grandma would approve of you watching like "A Deadly Adoption". Bravo guys!