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Legal Download: Pregnancy on demand

The world of film is changing. For one thing, there’s not much actual film anymore. The future is digital; more and more, it’s streaming on our computers, too. Every week in Legal Download, we survey the landscape of online movies to bring you a snapshot of what’s available. This week, put down your birth plan and tell your Lamaze instructor you’re going to be late, because it’s time to talk about pregnancy movies.

THIS WEEK’S THEME: Pregnancy

The movie industry has given birth to a lot of movies about pregnancy, including some really ugly babies, filled with enough hackneyed stereotypes to send the viewer screaming for an epidural long before the onscreen heroine demands one (and she always does, after spending the entire movie swearing she doesn’t want it). But if you dig a little, you’ll find some pregnancy movies worth taking home from the hospital — or at least worth watching at home; thankfully, many of the best are available on instant streaming or digital rental. Now take a deep breath and prepare for a big push; we’ve got five movies to get through before the end of the column.

On iTunes
THE BABYMAKERS (2012)
Directed by Jay Chandrasekhar
$6.99 to rent

Jay Chandrasekhar and Kevin Heffernan, two of the members of the comedy troupe Broken Lizard (SUPER TROOPERS), broke off from the rest of the group to make THE BABYMAKERS, a comedy about a married couple, Tommy and Audrey (Paul Schneider and Olivia Munn, respectively [obviously]), who are struggling to get pregnant. Tommy discovers he might have lazy sperm, so it’s a good thing he’d donated some of his precious bodily fluids to a sperm bank a few years earlier. Unfortunately, the bank refuses to give him back his boys, so Tommy and some pals cook up a scheme to break in and steal his sample. Finally, a movie with spunk! Sure to go down in history as one of the all-time seminal films! Other bad male reproductive material jokes! Call me crazy, but I want to read the whole thing as a metaphor for filmmaking: When you’re a young director, you’re full of vigor and brilliance; as you get older, you realize things don’t come as easy as they used to, and that’s when you start to mine your old material all over again. Hey, look, says here Broken Lizard wants to make SUPER TROOPERS 2.

ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968)
Directed by Roman Polanski
$2.99 to purchase; $9.99 to stream

The ultimate cinematic tribute to the fear of becoming a parent. Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) and her husband, Guy (John Cassavetes), move in to a new apartment in an old New York building, and a short while later, she becomes pregnant. Eventually she begins to suspect that her nosy neighbors (Sidney Blackmer and Ruth Gordon) are taking an interest in her unborn child because of a strange dream she had on the night she and Guy conceived their child — a dream of a strange religious ritual and demonic rape. Directed by Roman Polanski, ROSEMARY’S BABY is one of the great all-time thrillers, perhaps because it takes such an absurd story — demons and cults and the Antichrist born on the Upper West Side (maybe that last part’s not so absurd) — and grounds it in such universal terrors. The whole scenario plays to a fear shared by many expectant mothers: What if I screw up this baby’s life and he turns out to be a monster? Now, in this case, a Satanic cult has ensured that Rosemary’s baby actually is a monster, but the fire and brimstone conclusion is really just a pretext to talk about these larger ideas.

On Amazon
WAITRESS (2007)
Directed by Adrienne Shelly
$2.99 to rent; $9.99 to purchase


From one of the most unsettling stories about impending motherhood to one of the most inspiring. WAITRESS, from the late writer-director Adrienne Shelly, is the story of Jenna (Keri Russell) a small-town diner waitress who thinks her crummy home life with her shitheel husband (Jeremy Sisto, impressively loathsome) can’t get any worse — until she becomes pregnant with an unwanted child. Though Jenna’s pregnancy is unplanned, that development, and the changes she undertakes as a result, eventually give her the strength to take back her life from her controlling, selfish hubbie. So many stories about women who are surprised by pregnancies end in shotgun marriages or sad domestic compromise. WAITRESS is the opposite: an ode to the positive transformative power of motherhood. In the film’s most memorable — and in the wake of Shelly’s tragic murder, most poignant — moment the filmmaker’s real-life daughter plays Jenna’s toddler, as the two walk off into the sunset, hand-in-hand.

On Google Play
JUNIOR (1994)
Directed by Ivan Reitman
$2.99 to rent; $9.99 to purchase

JUNIOR was the offspring of the very successful early ’90s comedy TWINS, directed by Ivan Reitman and starring Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s always been looked at as something of a joke — “A man gets pregnant? And that man is Arnold Schwarzenegger? Fiddledy-dee!” — but the film is a good deal stranger and more interesting than its reputation. Schwarzenegger plays a gynecologist who, along with his partner (DeVito), have developed a new fertility drug; desperate for a test subject and unsure of the side effects, they decide to implant Ahnuld. He does indeed become pregnant with his own Li’l Terminator — at which point things get really weird. Are many of the jokes obvious? Obviously (hey — did you know that people who are pregnant like to eat junk food? Can you believe this movie didn’t win an Academy Award for Best Screenplay?). But the fact that it’s Schwarzenegger — man’s man, action stud and a guy who generally had a very complicated relationship to families in all his movies even before he got busted for having an affair with his housekeeper — gives JUNIOR some surprisingly fertile subtext.

On YouTube
KNOCKED UP (2007)
Directed by Judd Apatow
$2.99 to rent

Because his character’s wife was played by Leslie Mann (Judd Apatow’s real-life wife) and his character’s daughters were played by Maude and Iris Apatow (Apatow’s real-life daughters), most critics assumed that Paul Rudd’s Pete was the autobiographical character in KNOCKED UP. And I’m sure in many ways he was. But I suspect there was also plenty of Apatow in Seth Rogen‘s character, the schlubby stoner who accidentally impregnates a woman he randomly hooks up with at a bar (Katherine Heigl). I’m not suggesting Apatow accidentally knocked up a barroom squeeze. But I would imagine Rogen’s Ben became Apatow’s repository for all of the things he felt the first time he became a father: his fears about his inadequacy as a dad, his desire to hold on to his immaturity, his realization that he needs to grow up and be responsible for this life he’s created. Plus Ben’s dad is played by Harold Ramis, and if anyone was the spiritual father to Apatow’s comedy, it’s the guy who directed CADDYSHACK and NATIONAL LAMPOON’S VACATION and co-wrote ANIMAL HOUSE.