On April 1st, 2015, news broke that Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, and Jessica Lowndres were set to star in a Lifetime Original Movie with Rachel Lee Goldberg (The Asylum’s Sherlock Holmes and Sunday School Musical) directing and written by SNL writer Andrew Steele (Casa De mi Padre). In addition it was said that Adam McKay’s production company, Gary Sanchez Productions, would be executive producing. Being that this was April Fool’s Day not too many people took it seriously – and that was all the more confirmed when Will Ferrell made an announcement that since news of the “top-secret” project lead they were abandoning the idea. That seemed to be the end of that and we all had a good laugh. Or so it seemed until billboards and advertisements for A Deadly Adoption began popping up and then Lifetime released a trailer in June for the tv-movie. Was this really happening?
Indeed it was happening, with a television premier of June 20, 2015. Until that day nobody knew what this movie was going to be. Being Lifetime’s 25th Anniversary a parody of their own specific genre of Lifetime movies seemed to be a logical way to celebrate the event – but nothing from that trailer or any P.R. Indicated this was going to be a parody – still, what are these two great comedic actors (Ferrell and Wiig) doing in a Lifetime movie penned by an SNL writer? June 20th arrived and it was amazing – A Deadly Adoption succeeded in being a brilliant parody of Lifetime movies by being an absolutely sincere Lifetime movie. The way Black Dynamite parodied Blaxploitation by being a blaxploitation film – A Deadly Adoption spoofs/pays homage to the unique kitsch of Lifetime Original Movies simply by being a Lifetime Original Movie…. The most Lifetime Original of ALL Lifetime Originals. Eery possible trope the genre has to offer is here on display, proudly and with absolute sincerity.
Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig are Robert and Sarah a model couple: he’s the author of several successful financial planning books and she sells health foods at the park – the perfect model of the incorruptible white yuppie couple. They have some back story, struggling to get over the loss of Sarah’s last pregnancy during an accident – something Robert blamed himself for which drove him to alcoholism that he’s just now recovering from. On top of this their current daughter is insanely diabetic and a constant source for stress and worry in her frazzled parents. Robert and Sarah decide to adopt a baby from a woman named Brittney (Jessica Lowndes) who lives in a shelter. But this woman is not what she seems – she’s a big pregnant mess of crazy and plot twists.
It’s not quite the typical Lifetime movie because it’s the absolute apogee of every Lifetime movie. Every single trope is on display here, every cliché line and bit of trite over-dramatic dialogue is here and said with an absolute straight face. The performances seem kind of “off’ because they are sincere – they just happen to be lines that actual humans would not say – it’s the kind of thing an actor in a Lifetime original movie would say. If I were to sum it all up in to one line of dialogue it would be Will Ferrell’s line about their daughter’s medical condition (said with absolute concern and worry): “I found an unopened box of chocolate. You know the dangers of diabetic ketoacidosis!”
Do you remember the days when you would channel surf, and you would pass Lifetime and happen to catch a glimpse of some familiar actor – someone that hadn’t been in the spotlight for awhile (“What? Lea Thompson is till working?!”). So you stop on that channel for a moment and you realize you’re watching a totally stupid Lifetime movie – and it’s over-the-top and far too dramatic than in needs to be. And it’s “inspired by a true story,” they always are. So you get caught up watching this film, seeing how the former A-list actor hams their way through such unbelievable drama, hell you’d even absorb the commercials for this shit. When the movie ends you sit there on your couch, scratching your head and saying “What the hell was that?” A Deadly Adoption is a unique experience in that it attempts to capture that exact feeling only intentionally. Really, I found A Deadly Adoption to be one of the most brilliant television viewing experiences of the past few years – the most meta TV movie I’ve ever seen that’s self-aware without actually telling you it’s self aware. It’s like there’s an in-joke between the movie and certain people in the audience, winking at each other and taking delight from all the people that are taking this seriously.
Fellow Geek Juice contributor mister X and I watched the movie recently, tweeting at each other about how great this movie was – riffing the thing the whole time. Mister X assembled those tweets together so you can check them out. Read along as you watch the movie because, really, people NEED this movie.