TV Review: ‘A Deadly Adoption’

A Deadly Adoption
Courtesy of Lifetime

So with apologies to all concerned, what on Earth was the point of that? Perhaps if Will Ferrell had successfully premiered “A Deadly Adoption” as a completely stealth project, it would have been surprising to see him and Kristen Wiig turn up in what feels like a straight-forward Lifetime movie. As is, the producers have essentially engaged in a college-type exercise, seeing if they can replicate the predictable touches that characterize this kind of movie, for an audience that doesn’t have much sense of humor, usually, about its “stories.” The result? A film with something for virtually no one.

Granted, Ferrell has exhibited an interest in spoofing some of TV’s more risible conventions, including the wholly mediocre miniseries satire “The Spoils of Babylon.” As a result, many no doubt tuned in expecting something similar, even if the network and filmmakers remained mum about the movie, other than plastering L.A., at least, with billboards for it.

After about 20 minutes, though, it became increasingly clear this was being done without anything approaching an overt arched eyebrow, instead tapping directly into the typical Lifetime “inspired by a true story” niche — in this case, about a wealthy couple in an idyllic lake town being faced with a threat to their hearth and home, “Fatal Attraction” style.

Ferrell’s Robert Benson is a successful author, and his wife, Sarah (Wiig), runs her own organic food business. But they suffered a tragic loss during her pregnancy that left her unable to have more kids. Flash ahead five years, and their daughter (Alyvia Alyn Lind) is turning 6, while the marriage is barely bumping along. Although Robert has been cool to adoption candidates, they almost instantly settle on the pregnant Bridgette (Jessica Lowndes) who is six months along, agreeing to take her in and look after her until she delivers.

To say “Bridgette” is not all she appears should come as a surprise to nobody who has even casually stumbled across Lifetime on a Saturday night. And when the young woman tells Sarah that she longs some day to have “a family like yours,” other than the goofy closing sequence and Ferrell’s ridiculous haircut, that’s about as close to a laugh as anyone is apt to find here.

Written by Andrew Steele (who also worked on “Spoils of Babylon”) and directed by Rachel Lee Goldenberg, “A Deadly Adoption” certainly looks like it would fit right in on Lifetime. Yet other than the unlikely stars and the uncertainty about what the movie was, it’s difficult to see what the network gained from indulging whatever impulse possessed Ferrell and Wiig to dedicate their time to this. (Lowndes, actually, has the showiest role, and generally makes the most of it.)

Charitably, one could argue that there’s a hip-to-be-square quality at work, as well as a sense that churning out something this formulaic is almost like mastering a very specific trade. Clearly, it’s not a case of stretching as an actor, as comics sometimes do when drawn to dramatic roles.

Mostly, the experience is a head-scratcher all around. Because even by the undemanding standards evoked by the traditional image of Lifetime movies, the only deadly thing about this “Adoption” is just how dull it was.

TV Review: 'A Deadly Adoption'

(Movie; Lifetime, Sat. June 20, 8 p.m.)


Filmed in Los Angeles by Mar Vista Entertainment and National Picture Show.


Executive producers, Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Sharon Bordas, Fernando Szew, Andrew Steele, Jessica Elbaum; producers, Adam Silver, Fritz Manger, Max Osswald; director, Rachel Lee Goldenberg; writer, Steele; camera, Silver; production designer, Celine Diano; editor, Bill Parker; music, MJ Mynarski; casting, Michael Testa. 120 MIN.


Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, Jessica Lowndes, Alyvia Alyn Lind, Jake Weary, Bryan Safi

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  1. It’s interesting how many people who watched this didn’t get that the joke was that it *wasn’t* a joke. Most people I know who are avowed Lifetime fans watch the movies *because* they find the over-dramatic, soapy storylines and plots hilarious. This hit that mark exactly. To say that Lifetime’s audience doesn’t have “much sense of humor” is an obvious assumption, and an ignorant one, at that. Lifetime is no longer the camp of hysterical, lonely housewives, and hasn’t been for a long time. Your condescending tone toward Lifetime movies in general is exactly why you *didn’t* get this project. It was an inside joke, and a brilliant one.

    Also, in no way, shape, or form was it ever implied that this would be a “spoof” or a “parody” – people made that assumption based on who the stars were. That was their own mistake, not Ferrell’s.

  2. ang says:

    i kept waiting for the kid to come up with a gun, from who knows where, and yell “dont kill my daddy!” or something like that.
    i wasted brain cells watching this movie, should have watched spongebob instead, and i dont even like sponegbob

  3. PJ says:

    Writer Andrew Steele of and actors Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig in
    “Deadly Adoption” desperately need to take notes on how to make “Lethal
    Seduction” over the top crazy trauma/drama hilarious fun, because
    their LifeTime production only made me realize that I no longer enjoy
    Will Ferrell!
    However, Bridget (Jessica Lowndes) made LifeTime over the top crazy trauma/drama hilarious fun proud!

  4. lisa says:

    horrible horrible movie two actors i expected more from i cant tell you how disapointed and the final dancing scene are u flipping kidding me.. i lost 2 hours of my life i will never get back

  5. This movie was so predictable that I always knew what was going to happen next and the acting was bad that it was laughable. The part on the bridge where he jumped off in slow motion into the river to get his daughter, was funny because the psycho woman could have easily shot and killed him, lol

  6. Ken says:

    Best scene garage door opening orchestra booming Will with Kristen in his wounded arms slow stepping from the noxious fumes. OMG REALLY!!!

  7. Quita Clark says:

    I kept waiting for the punchline. I mean, the story was so bad that I thought FOR SURE this was a joke. But it wasn’t. It was one long, unfunny, non-joke.

  8. Jacques Strappe says:

    Actually, it felt like one of those way too common awkwardly and completely unfunny SNL sketches that don’t know how or when to end so they go on interminably

  9. Jennyzeroo says:

    Oh, I get it! It’s a normal, not very good, Lifetime movie with comedians playing like the regular actors.

    So it’s funny, because there’s nothing funny about it.

    Well, that novelty is ….. oops, I’m over the novelty already.

  10. My wife and I laughed from the beginning to end and was anything but dull. Every turn of the plot was predictable or didn’t make sense, and that was completely INTENTIONAL. At the end I laughed so hard it hurt, I’m planning on watching it again. They spoofed a lifetime movie perfectly, which resulted in something much better than a traditional spoof. Emmy-worthy television.

    • GretaM says:

      Yes… I’m totally with you here. My husband and I did the same!! It was completely clear to both of us from the jump what was going on here. I’d def watch it again!

      • Same here–my wife and I both really enjoyed it! It’s weird that so many people apparently felt offended and angry–I can’t help but think that most viewers (and reviewers?) have a very narrow idea of what constitutes correct “comedy”.

  11. Six says:

    This is the worst movie I ever seen, where the wife found the gun ?and how she got there?, it just didnt make sense .life time you guys lost me.

  12. Vocie says:

    This could have been accomplished as a three minute SNL sketch but like most Funny or Die product it got stretched too far. Same applies to Spoils of Babylon which was three hours with maybe six laughs.

    • Phil Arbon says:

      The Spoils Of Babylon was fantastic.

      I feel for you guys that found in boring. Maybe you just didn’t get the references?

  13. Adam Sinatra Jr says:

    You are completely wrong. We threw a party and loved it. What a terrible review and writer. Don’t review what you don’t understand. Criticizing art is so lame.

  14. Victoria Michaels says:

    I couldn’t agree with this critic more. I feel taken advantage of by Ferrell and Wiig. If they wanted to work together then why not choose something that fits and if they wanted to stretchas actors, find ssomething passable as good. That sucked. I was adopted and I thought this would be interesting. But it wasn’t anything at all.

  15. crookedmindframe says:

    LOL This review is ridiculous, did you not pay attention to the hilarious dialogue? Or did you take it entirely as a serious dramatic film? This is exactly why I don’t trust reviews when it comes to both comedy & horror films.

    • runnermomma says:

      The dialogue was hilarious! My dish network guide categorized it as a “comedy”. Ferrell kept referring to his daughter’s condition by it’s full medical name and there were definitely some inside jokes you had to pay attention to. My husband and I laughed at it.

  16. charlesamiller says:

    When will someone inform Will Ferrell that he reached the bottom of his remarkably small bag of tricks back in the mid-90s?

  17. Amazed says:

    Seriously?! This was the dryest, most spot-on love letter to lifetime from Ferrell and it was GLORIOUS! Hysterical perfection to me, but I’m a mere “shill” who gets “paid” to be a “movie reviewer”… *sigh*

  18. Bonnie says:

    This movie was horrible!!!! Will Ferrell & Kristen Wig are terrific comedic actors but since this was not a comedy it was definitely a waste of 2hours!!!!

  19. maggiemay1 says:

    I stopped watching lifetime years ago because whenever they did have anything half way decent they canceled it. From brief channel surfing snippets that I’ve seen it hasn’t changed at all. Movies or series on lifetime don’t have to be all that good because lifetime doesn’t demand it. All they want is the same old thing, over and over again. At one point lifetime marketed themselves as a network for women which is sad as they NEVER have gotten what women want. The only thing this movie managed to do is start a discussion as to whether it was a spoof or not of what lifetime runs all the time, so win, lose or draw it didn’t matter whether it was a spoof are not, it got you talking about lifetime. And as we all know, bad publicity is better than none at all.

  20. Haley says:

    HOW did you guys not get this? How????

  21. Mantle Head says:

    A proper director would have saved Ferrell’s performance… he looks as stiff as timber in this; but I blame the director, you have to break Ferrell down, get to the dramatic actor (that takes a talent not on this set; you have to say, ‘Will, that was sh*t, you’re not selling cornflakes…’ I respect his bravery, but the man is rigged to make us laugh… what can you do. But this director is a hairy arsed chimp.

  22. tru leigh says:

    The material was beneath their the talents. The kid was good, though.

  23. faye says:

    Ok i thought a few things were almost funny buttt.that was a bad movie. He was a terrible serious actor.

  24. Gbrl Gzmn says:

    Why does it have to fit into a category that you wish it to be? Are you sure some or all of it went over your head? Were your typing this review out as the movie was playing? Snooze button, brah!

  25. gary sanchez says:

    You really couldn’t tell this was a satire/parody? With lines like “You know the dangers of diabetic ketoacidosis!” Or “I went crazy. I said yes to every book tour!” Seriously Variety, you need to find more intelligent columnists.

  26. crystal says:

    I can’t believe how many people commenting on this don’t realize the humor in this movie. the point of the movie was to take 2 comedic actors, put them in a typical “based on true events” lifetime quality movie and poke fun at it, without directly poking fun at it. the whole movie was hilarious. my favorite scene was when bridgette “starles” Robert while he was staring off at the lake. I have been an avid lifetime movie watcher since i was 12 (before there was a lifetime network) and im 32 now, so i got the humor. sorry you guys didnt.

    • Mantle Head says:

      But that idea is DUMB!!!! It’s a stupid idea…

    • Ann says:

      Agreed. I don’t know whether or not to call this movie brilliant as a satire of a normal Lifetime movie, or simply a bad movie that tried earnestly to convey its plot with two well-known actors. This was such a bizarre movie. I am both amused by the greatness of its satire and entertained by its terrible writing and predictable plot. Kristin Wiig and Will Farrell where phenomenal. I don’t know how they were able to keep such a straight face throughout the movie…there must have been many bloopers and outtakes.

  27. tina says:

    obviously, you are not a lifetime groupie…….deadly adoption was perfect……it was so on the mark and funny, but you couldn’t feel that.

  28. Mark Bigford says:

    Sorry you didnt enjoy watching a Lifetime made for Tv movie. (My mom loves them) I guess the jokes on you 😉

  29. Alex says:

    So the critics are saying that Ferrell should stick to comedies that take place in the 70’s?

  30. zyggie says:

    I tried to watch this movie BUT, it was not good at all. Will F. and K. W. i like but not in this movie. It was not believable at all.

  31. This movie was perfect.

  32. michele says:

    I liked will Ferrell in this movie. It was great to see a dramatic side of him and would like to see more of him in these types of roles. I enjoyed the movie.

  33. I never understand why funny people have this need to be dramatic actors. It almost always does not work out. Jim Carrey, Adam Sandler, Eddie Murphy ( except Dreamgirls he was great in that ) and now Will Farrell. The exception to this rule is Tom Hanks he is pretty great in anything he tries his hand on! I dont see what is so wrong with being great at being funny! The world has enough seriousness so when you are amazing at making people laugh you should stick with it!!

    • AlanMichael says:

      serious jim carrey movies are 2 of my favorite (Truman, Eternal Sunshine)

      • eric dr says:

        Actually dramatic acting works out more often than not I think. Jim carrey in eternal sunshine, carrell in foxcatcher, tom hanks and robin williams in b basically anything. I dont think this movie counts. Ferrell was doing dramatic acting as a joke I think. I think he could pull it off if he had a serious script to work off of.

    • Johnny says:

      Steve Carrell was amazing in Foxcatcher.

  34. I laughed all through the movie…I think it was a brilliant comedic idea for Ferrell and Wiig to do this Lifetime movie and play it straight. All the perfectly clichéd Lifetime characters, dialogue and plot points…meanwhile Ferrell and Wiig’s facial expressions are priceless mimics of Lifetime actors throughout. There is no need to go over the top and super exaggerated when parodying Lifetime movies. This was the perfect way to do it. Loved it.

    • Eye-Fi says:

      An interesting experiment, but it’s very hard to do intentional “bad” work. Sharknado swam beneath the radar initially, but now that it’s an annual kitsch franchise it isn’t as much fun. I grew tired of watching this MOW, but am glad they did it.

    • julia bassett says:

      Agreed! I laughed my ass off the entire time…the formulaic plot, the gay friend, the sexy villianess….it was so damned funny. And the dance scene at the end was perfection.

  35. Jay says:

    Maybe the review was a parody of a movie review. Dud you ever think of that?

  36. Nerd Rage says:

    Kristin Wiig is literally the most overexposed person in show business. She’s in every movie, every indie and feeble parodies like this and SPOILS and its sequel. Nothing she’s in, even a movie where she’s nekked, are successful so I guess she’s raking it in while she can. Like many people I think her new ghostbusters is a steaming pile of eckto crap.

    • Johnny says:

      Not nearly as overexposed as Jennifer Lawrence.

    • John Briggs says:

      Bridemaids is the most successful female comedy of all-time. There’s no sense in even entertaining your argument beyond that statement.

      • Bill B. says:

        Yeah, it was great if you get off on watching fat women fart. It was just a typical stupid American comedy with a cast of women acting like assholes instead of men. Because it made money doesn’t mean it was any good. The public does, unfortunately, have a taste for junk.

  37. I am shocked at how many people could not see the comedic value in this movie. Really???? I guess most reviewers have never actually watched a Lifetime movie based on a true story. It was brilliant right down to Owen Wilson’s momentary appearance. They hit every (and I mean EVERY) cliche. Bravo to Will and Kristen. This was a brave thing to do even if most people didn’t get it. If a professional reviewer is scratching their head over this, then it’s probably time to look for a new profession.

    • junemorte says:

      “Brian Lowry is a T.V columnist for no one” A Deadly Adoption was so obviously a parody of a Lifetime movie, which are often parodies of themselves. I felt it to be comedic gold that delivered tons of lovely absurdist humour-esque moments and just plain silly fun. This movie was like an inside joke that you either picked up on or did not and got left out of the twisted Kafka type fun. Consider all the beautifully, clumsy expository dialogue or the notorious garage door scene when Robert carried Sarah out of a smokey garage in a moment that mirrored a bad Chuck Norris film. That said it all. This was meant to be bad-good. Maybe Variety is just too geriatric of a publication to understand hipster irony. By the way & just in case you missed it, that was a joke.

      • junemorte says:

        Oh and I meant the last line of my review of a review was a joke. The geriatric thing. Not the whole comment. I did like this movie. My husband and I laughed ourselves silly.

  38. Riley says:

    I got it from all the ads. Blame yourself and everyone else who assumed this would be a comedy spoof. The commercials never hinted at that.

  39. IT was a good way to kill 2 hours. I enjoyed seeing Will and Kristen go dramatic, even if it was over the top. Personally, all I could envision was Wiig with her Denise forehead and little hands. To me, this was just a remake of the Made For TV MOvies of the 80s where the young, nubile girl seduces the husband… youtube “The Babysitter” and “Summer Girl.” Such a cliche plot.

  40. Loretta Paraguassu says:

    Date: Sun, 21 Jun 2015 03:53:24 +0000 To:

  41. Lisa says:

    “I found an unopened box of chocolate today and YOU KNOW THE DANGERS OF DIABETIC KETOACIDOSIS!”

    It was hilarious because it used every worn out trope a Lifetime movie uses. It wasn’t an SNL skit and it wasn’t written to have jokes. The whole movie was a joke. It blows my mind that people do not get it.

  42. Anna says:

    Seriously, if you aren’t a Lifetime Movie watcher you have no right writing a review on one. This movie was dead on for Lifetime. If you expected Will’s comedy nature then you would end up being dearly disappointed in this movie. If you expected this to be Lifetime then you will enjoy it. This movie was A TYPICAL for lifetime.

  43. Kate says:

    This was one of the worst acted and plotted movies of all time. I’d be ashamed to have been engaged in any part of it. Holy crap! what were they thinking – stupid to the core!

    • Damaris Goetze says:

      That’s the entire point. We don’t watch Lifetime movies because they’re good. We watch them because they are BAD!

  44. H.M. says:

    Maybe it would work better on a more meta level. Just laugh at Will Ferrell attempting to do a Lifetime parody and make that the real funny parts.

  45. AJ Simpson says:

    “A film with something for nearly no one?” I mean, I’m all for well-reasoned criticism, but this is objectively wrong, and even a cursory Twitter search proves it.

  46. Max Barber says:

    What an idiot review, Did they not get the entire premise?

  47. Smallstack says:

    How did the reviewer manage to miss the point here? I guess it’s true. Even the experienced critic can’t spot irony. My wife and I laughed all the way through the perfectly executed direction and performances. If you didn’t get it the first time, here’s a clue: it’s funny because those Lifetime original films are FUNNY. They didn’t have to change a thing. Brilliant.

  48. Michael says:

    It was a parody. Some people don’t get that I guess.

  49. Mary Ann Bogumill says:

    i am totally confused. i never read that it was a parody only that it was a comedy. Actually like Variety noted it is a Lifetime movie and most people who viewed it saw it as that only. There is, however, one funny thing. in scene one we see Will Farrell holding a baby and then his pregnant wife having an accident. it takes us to four years later where an apparently 8 year old kid is getting a bike and then there is a scene where Will Farrell tells baby mama that an accident happened 7 years ago after earlier they comment after the party it’s been five years. Maybe that’s the comedy.

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