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TV Review: ‘A Deadly Adoption’

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

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.)

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

Crew: 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.

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

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