Since I was actually at home on a Saturday for the first time in months, I decided to take it easy this weekend. I needed a break from my usually overscheduled life and kicking back and staying close to home seemed to be just what the doctor ordered. That meant that I was in front of my TV at 8 pm Saturday night when Lifetime debuted their Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig movie, A Deadly Adoption. There was no way that I was missing that. I grabbed some ice cream and curled up on the couch, curious as to what I was about to witness.
I had been looking forward to the debut of A Deadly Adoption partially because I had absolutely no idea what to expect from it. Would it be a parody of Lifetime movies, full of over the top acting and akin to a sketch that you’d see on Saturday Night Live? Would they actually do just a traditional Lifetime movie? Were the viewers about to get punked and discover that there was no full length movie, just two hours of random nonsense? Honestly, any and all options seemed plausible. The idea that Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig had teamed up with Lifetime to do anything seemed patently absurd, and when that’s your starting point anything really is possible. I was kind of rooting for theory #3 – this was all an elaborate prank – as I was sure that would make the most number of people angry and it’s always fun to watch people lose their minds of silly stuff that no one should really care about. Plus I have absolutely no idea the number of people who watch Lifetime movies like I do – as a goof –compared to those who take these movies seriously. I think the membership of the latter group is probably larger than I think, which in and of itself is concerning.
It turns out that Ferrell and Wiig opted to play it straight; A Deadly Adoption was on the surface a pretty straightforward Lifetime movie. Ferrell and Wiig didn’t vamp it up or make it overtly campy; their presence was the only thing that really made A Deadly Adoption out of the ordinary. If the leads had been Tori Spelling and Dean MCDermott, nothing would have appeared remotely amiss. This may have disappointed people who were tuning in expecting something over the top or laugh out loud funny. That’s not what this movie was. But for people who are familiar with this genre of movie, A Deadly Adoption was pretty funny in a deadpan sort of way. It played up all the unintentional comedy that these movies possess with their ridiculous plot twists and silly dialogue. At its worst, A Deadly Adoption was an average Lifetime movie; at its best it was a subtle parody of the genre that just let the tropes of the genre do the work for it. A Deadly Adoption was a silly, melodramatic film which was exactly the point. If you were playing “Lifetime movie bingo” while watching, you would have a full playing card by the movie’s end. The checked all the boxes of the needed characteristics for a true Lifetime movie. There was just enough cheese and self-awareness to make it a super fun viewing experience.
The plot of A Deadly Adoption is ripe Lifetime movie canon – Robert and Sarah Benson (Ferrell and Wiig) lose their second child after an accident, which puts strain on their marriage. They decide to adopt a child; enter Bridget (90210’s Jessica Lowndes), a beautiful young pregnant woman looking to give up her child to a loving home. Bridget is currently living in a shelter, so the Bensons invite her to move in with them and their daughter Sully. But is Bridget seems to have designs on making herself a more permanent fixture in the Benson home. To say any more would be to ruin some of the fun, but as is required for Lifetime movies, there is secret identities, infidelity, kidnapping, murder and other assorted mayhem. A Deadly Adoption is a bit like a mix of The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, Fatal Attraction and What Lies Beneath all rolled into one.
I don’t know if Lifetime as a network has become self-aware or not, but whoever wrote this movie knew exactly what they were doing. A Deadly Adoption is more of an homage to terrible Lifetime movies than a mocking of them and on that level the movie really works. The hardest adjustment is watching Ferrell and Wiig play it straight down the middle; you are so conditioned to expect them to do something wacky and big that it takes a bit to get used to them playing these roles somewhat seriously. There is some initial humor at seeing these two actors in the movie, but that’s the most overt grab for laughs. Sure the plot for A Deadly Adoption is ridiculous and the constant revelations and plot twists are ludicrous, but that’s exactly the point. Honestly, this wasn’t even the craziest Lifetime movie that I’ve ever seen.
I kept an eye on Twitter while I was watching A Deadly Adoption and the reactions to the movie ran the gambit. Those who were expecting a spoof like Scary Movie were terribly disappointed by the fact that this wasn’t a straight comedy. Those unfamiliar with Lifetime movies just thought that it was a terrible movie. But for the select few who had no expectations going in and have a background in Lifetime movie nonsense, it was unintentionally comedy gold. When you recognize that A Deadly Adoption was more of a conscious tribute to the Lifetime movie genre than a takedown of it, it’s kind of brilliant. It certainly didn’t work from lack of commitment from anyone involved.
I have absolutely no idea what Lifetime was trying to say by airing A Deadly Adoption – maybe they are finally admitting that they are in on the joke – or why exactly Ferrell and Wiig decided to get involved. I’m glad that they did, however. I may not have laughed out loud during the movie, but there were several chuckles of recognition and nods of approval on the execution of the required elements. A Deadly Adoption was just a weird little distraction that fell into my lap and while I don’t think it’s for everyone, it was certainly something of a love letter for those of us who watch Lifetime movies ironically. Everyone was in on the joke, which was there was no joke. It was like one long performance piece; Andy Kaufman would be proud.
If you missed A Deadly Adoption, Lifetime is surely re-running it ad nausea. Check your local listings.