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Labor Pains DVD Review

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Movie & DVD Details

Director: Lara Shapiro / Writers: Lara Shapiro, Stacey Kramer

Cast: Lindsay Lohan (Thea Clayhill), Luke Kirby (Nick Steinwald), Chris Parnell (Jerry Steinwald), Aaron Yoo (Miles), Bridgit Mendler (Emma Clayhill), Tracee Ellis Ross (Kristin), Kevin Covais (Greg), Bonnie Somerville (Suzi Cavandish), Cheryl Hines (Lisa DePardo), Creed Bratton (John Abbotts), Janeane Garofalo (The Vista Host), Keiko Agena (Pregnant Bookstore Woman), Donald V. Allen (Umpire), Jack Axelrod (O'Keefe), Maree Cheatham (Ann), Pat Crawford Brown (Aunt Betty), Willie Garson (Carl), Ana Ortiz (Donna), Jay Thomas (Garth)

Original Air Date: July 19, 2009 / Running Time: 89 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish; Not Closed Captioned; Extra Not Subtitled
DVD Release Date: August 4, 2009 / Suggested Retail Price: $28.98
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5) / Black Keepcase
Also available on Blu-ray Disc ($29.98 SRP)

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The typical celebrity acting career charts as a bell curve, in which the performer rises to prominence and eventually falls, accepting the kind of work they'd swiftly turn down at the height of their fame. Lindsay Lohan's career would appear to be ordinary in that regard, except that she recently turned 23 and thus has experienced the full curve and then some in just thirteen years of acting.

Lohan followed up her breakthrough role, playing twins in Disney's 1998 The Parent Trap remake, with some TV movies for the same studio. A high-grossing second remake (2003's Freaky Friday) boosted her career, but it was her work in Mean Girls (2004) that solidified Lohan as a teen icon. From there, she became one of the paparazzi's favorite targets
and perhaps the most-documented actor of Young Hollywood. Soon, her high-profile relationships, fluctuating weight, legal setbacks, and rehab stints were more interesting than her movies, which haven't drawn big crowds since 2005. Things seemed to hit rock bottom for Lohan with 2007's I Know Who Killed Me, a critically-drubbed, financially unsuccessful schizophrenic stripper/serial killer thriller that won eight Razzie awards.

Lohan looks to bounce back with Labor Pains, a film intended for theatrical release that instead made its debut last week as "A New ABC Family Original Movie." In it, Lohan plays Thea Clayhill, a young Los Angeles woman trying to make ends meet for her and her younger sister, high school senior Emma (Bridgit Mendler). Recently orphaned, the two now rely solely on Thea's income, which comes from her steady but unfulfilling work as secretary to pedantic publisher Jerry Steinwald ("Saturday Night Live" alum Chris Parnell). From what we see, the job consists of getting scolded over trivial oversights and tending to Jerry's overly-nurtured dog.

Thea Clayhill (Lindsay Lohan) becomes the center of attention around her office after she shares the not-so-true news she's pregnant. Thea (Lindsay Lohan) tries to hide her tummy pad (and the lie that explains it) from her sister/roommate Emma (Bridgit Mendler).

When a petty mistake leads Jerry to fire Thea, she hatches an idea on the spot. In a similar situation, most employees might protest, argue their case, ask for another chance, or accept they'll soon be living off unemployment checks. But none of those sound remarkable enough to sustain a full-length movie, especially a comedy. So it's in our best interests that Thea announces she's pregnant, a complete lie but one which apparently protects her from being fired. The repercussions of Thea's lie provide the bulk of this plot-driven film.

The news that she's expecting brings positive change to Thea's life. Armed with a stomach pad stolen off a maternity store mannequin and a knowing confidant in fellow bathroom smoker colleague Lisa (Cheryl Hines, "Curb Your Enthusiasm"), Thea sees her spontaneous lie grow and spawn a number of smaller ones. But co-workers are suddenly nicer, the landlord is more patient, and her situation attracts interest from her interim boss, Jerry's brother Nick (Luke Kirby). Enlisting her help to launch a line of pregnancy books, he promotes her to associate editor, giving her an office and a raise.

Thea's deceptions dig her into a hole she won't be able to escape as her due date approaches. They also place the movie in the same hole. How can Labor Pains resolve its central crux in a way that's funny, believable, and not extremely stupid? It can't and its efforts to do so coincide with a flagging of wit and energy. Just like the protagonist in her scam, the viewer must recognize this can't end well. While the standard romantic comedy this wraps up as doesn't live up to what precedes it, it also doesn't register as a huge disappointment.

Lisa (Cheryl Hines) and Thea (Lindsay Lohan) learn a few things about pregnancy on the maternity store's checkout line. In need of a partner, Thea (Lindsay Lohan) has her interim boss/love interest Nick Steinwald (Luke Kirby) join her at a sensual birthing class.

The movie benefits from the lowered expectations that come with the inability to secure theatrical release. Enter this prepared to get the lamebrained ideas and amateur execution of most cable TV movies and you should be pleasantly surprised (or disappointed, if you have a soft spot for ABC Family's signature cheesy fluff). It's not hard to see why no fewer than five production companies backed the script by Stacey Kramer and Lara Shapiro,
each making their feature debuts. The concept is one that anyone could conceive (no pun intended) and get some mileage out of, but the dialogue and plotting reflects some clear thought and skill.

The project absolutely benefits from the casting as well. Not only are there recognizable actors seen here (something distributors are always glad to tout), but they actually bring some comedic chops. Though recent years have made her more of a punchline and media train wreck than an actress, Lohan hasn't let go of the fine timing and delivery that made her stand out in her few good comedies.

The experienced cast around her lends solid support. Best able to advance the story in a convincing way are Hines, Mendler, and Bonnie Somerville. Others make the most of their limited screentime. Among those earning laughs are Parnell, nerdy "American Idol" finalist Kevin Covais, workman Jay Thomas, and, in a brief but hysterical turn, Creed Bratton of "The Office" as an alcoholic military author. Slightly underused are Janeane Garofalo as a popular talk show host and Aaron Yoo, whose character (Thea's boyfriend/"fiancι") takes giant, lazy leaps in stupidity in each of his few appearances. As for the piece's leading man, Luke Kirby seems a bit generic, but he adequately sells his workplace ambition.

Sixteen days after its television debut, Labor Pains comes to DVD and Blu-ray Disc from First Look Studios.

Thea's usual boss, pompous publisher Jerry Steinwald (Chris Parnell) has a close relationship with his somewhat hairless dog MacArthur. On a break from softball, "The Office" quack Creed Bratton shows off his baby bump to the amusement of co-star Tracee Ellis Ross in the making-of featurette.


Labor Pains is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and your choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 and plain stereo sound. There are no major problems with the picture and sound. Besides the former being slightly soft and faintly blurry, there is none of the evidence of a limited budget that TV movies usually carry.
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The soundtrack is comprised of pleasant unknown pop songs that form a presence but not an overpowering one.


The DVD's lead bonus is "The Making of Labor Pains" (12:56), a routine promotional featurette comprised of clips, cast and crew interview sound bites, and behind-the-scenes footage. About half of it's spent describing the plot and characters, but the second half that discusses the production experience is of more interest to those who have just watched the movie.

"Previews" nicely holds a trailer for Labor Pains in addition to individual access to the disc-loading promos for The Code, The Wedding Weekend, and Stiletto.

The DVD's main menu runs a score montage next to the cover imagery. Submenus are static and silent, including the malfunctional scene selection pages. There are no in-case inserts.

Thea (Lindsay Lohan) gets a hands-on look at a breast-milk-pumping contraption while browsing a maternity section. After two TV screen appearances, Janeane Garofalo gets seen up close when LiLo appears as a last-minute guest replacement on faux talk show "The Vista."


Labor Pains isn't bad enough to have deserved being denied a theatrical release. Worse comedies have made it to the big screen this year and managed to earn over $100 million worldwide. That said, perhaps the drastically lowered expectations that come with being an ABC Family Original Movie helps one appreciate the film. This concept piece hits many of the beats you would guess. Thanks to decent work by Lindsay Lohan and her supporting cast, it does so in a fairly harmless, often witty, and only occasionally stupid fashion.

First Look's DVD no doubt offers a far superior presentation than cable TV would and there is some content (at least a little profanity and a sexually suggestive birthing class) that would have to be cut or sanitized there. Coupled with the fact that the movie's next scheduled airing isn't until the end of August, a rental certainly seems advantageous and, for fans of the cast, worthwhile. If you're set on a purchase, it might not pay to wait. Though it probably won't be long until this comes down in price, pre-order/release date discounts are already pretty steep and retailers' catalog selections usually are not.

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Related Reviews:
Starring Lindsay Lohan:
The Parent Trap (1998) • Freaky Friday (2003) • Get a Clue • Herbie: Fully Loaded
Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen • My Scene Goes Hollywood: The Movie

New to DVD: Princess Protection Program • Race to Witch Mountain • Reno 911!: The Complete Sixth Season Uncensored • Mr. Troop Mom
ABC Family: 10 Things I Hate About You: Volume One • Kyle XY: The Complete First Season • Everything You Want • Shadows in the Sun
Pregnancy: Juno • Knocked Up • Maneater • Scrubs: The Complete Sixth Season • Army Wives: The Complete Second Season
Ugly Betty: The Complete Second Season • Confessions of a Shopaholic • Lizzie McGuire: Box Set Volume 1 • He's Just Not That Into You

The Supporting Cast of Labor Pains:
Cheryl Hines: Our Very Own | Aaron Yoo: Disturbia • 21 • Friday the 13th (2009)
Janeane Garofalo: Ellen: The Complete Season Three • NewsRadio: The Complete Series • Ratatouille

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Reviewed July 31, 2009.

Text copyright 2009 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2009 First Look Studios, Millennium Films, and Latitude Films. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.