Have you ever lied about something, thinking that you could easily get out of it, only to find the lie escalating to such an extreme that it feels like it’s impossible to tell the truth? That’s the basic idea of Preggoland, which has its leading character, Ruth (Sonja Bennett) lie about being pregnant, only to find her life improve immeasurably as more and more people find out. Except, you know, it’s kind of hard to fake being pregnant. There’s where our comedy comes from.
Ruth is in her mid-30s, even though she still acts like she’s 23. As a result, all of her friends, either mothers or expectant mothers, are slowly trying to distance themselves from her. Ruth still lives at home with her father (James Caan), with whom she has a rocky relationship. And — not that there’s anything wrong with this — she still works checkout at a grocery store. After a misunderstanding, someone mistakes her for being pregnant, and she goes with it. Soon, everyone’s treating her differently, and her life begins to improve. All because she’s carrying another human being in her stomach, or so everyone thinks.
The lie gets out of control, Ruth starts seeing her new boss, Danny (Paul Campbell), who broke up with his wife after she deceived him — uh oh! — she’s scheduled for ultrasounds and parenting classes, and a whole lot of other things keep her from spilling the truth. What the audience is waiting for is two-fold: (1) we want to see how Ruth will continue to lie to everyone, even when the circumstances seem to suggest she won’t be able to, and (2) we want to see it inevitably blow up in her face.
For a good chunk of the film, both of these are compelling enough to hold our attention. We get to see Ruth grow as a person over the course of the experience, some of the situations she has to deal with are funny, and the lie continues to build and build. But then the film overstays its welcome and interest in the whole premise begins to wane, fade, and otherwise slowly drip to a zero on the “how much do you care” scale.
Aiding Ruth in her deception is a fellow employee, Pedro (Danny Trejo), who was a doctor in his country and easily tells that she’s faking. He’s close to getting fired, so he tells her that he’ll help her fake it if she helps him keep his job. Pedro fills in in the “older male” role for the midway point as James Caan mostly disappears. Why? I don’t know. Because we need an older male? Maybe it’s just a coincidence. But, really, where did James Caan go for most of the second act?
Preggoland is one of those “dramedies,” a mix of drama and comedy. Many of these films wind up feeling like a lackluster version of each. They’re not as funny as they could have been, and they don’t stir up emotions like they would have had they focused more on the drama. Dramas can be funny and comedies can be dramatic without making a conscious effort to “include” both aspects. Preggoland contains its fair share of funny moments, but not enough of them to justify running for as long as it does (approximately 105 minutes). And when it comes to working as a drama? Forget it.
At least Sonja Bennett, who also co-wrote the script, seems to be having a good time playing the lead role. She’s channeling Charlize Theron in Young Adult, but that’s fine. She makes for a convincing lead, both as someone who has no real adult responsibilities, and then someone who fakes the pregnancy and grows over the course of the film. She is the reason most of the jokes work. Trejo, Caan, and the rest of the supporting cast are fine, but they’re aren’t anywhere near as good as Bennett.
Preggoland is an initially interesting movie that eventually wears out its welcome and becomes something you wish would end, not something you hope will continue. Its premise is funny, and takes the idea of a lie gone wrong to the extreme, but it’s too one-note to last for 105 minutes. Take out 15 minutes and perhaps we’ve got a better movie. Sonja Bennett is great, and Danny Trejo and James Caan are fun in supporting roles. The film is funny, but not at all emotionally compelling. It’s a mixed bag of movie. If you like films like Young Adult, it might be worth your time.