Babymaker” is a made-for-Melissa Gilbert telefilm. It provides the actress plenty of weepy moments to mix among the protracted sessions of righteous indignation, all trademarked acting characteristics of the telepic veteran.
But when all the tears are shed and the last breath is yelled, this plodding drama is little more than a two-hour talkfest about the mechanics of artificial insemination that doesn’t assume a stance or make a point.
Preying on gullible middle-America couples, Dr. Cecil Jacobson (George Dzundza) promises pregnancies for the infertile with his revolutionary regimen of drugs and insemination, allegedly using donors more likely to have tenure at MIT than a job at the DMV.
Yet all this begs a question that is never really answered: Is he a medical genius or a hormonally driven deviant? Only his receptionist knows for sure. But when the procedure fails for one couple, they set out to expose Jacobson as the con man they believe him to be. This tests the friendship between Mary (Gilbert) , who gets pregnant, and Sue (Shanna Reed), who can’t, as the latter wants to have the doctor’s license revoked and his carcass sent to the nearest Club Fed.
The revelation that the slippery doc is actually using his own sperm for the procedures eventually galvanizes the two friends, who unite to bring down the unscrupulous Jacobson.
But just when scripters Phil Penningroth and Sharon Elizabeth Doyle are developing the story into an investigative whydunnit, picking up the pace along with the intelligence level, it quickly retreats into soap opera territory. We’re treated to tearful mirror shots of Gilbert and tension-filled encounters with hubby Greg (Tom Verica).
Dzundza’s work as the gregarious but egomaniacal doctor is credible and first-rate. His performance looms large over the
ensemble cast (much as he did as the hard-charging detective on NBC’s “Law & Order”). Dzundza serves to keep the pulse of the story pumping, even during its moments of cardiac arrest.
Director Arlene Sanford straddles the fence of tabloid topic or heartfelt drama, never really getting her cast to cross solidly into one territory.
The result is a muddying of the moral or the message of the story, which may leave some viewers hoping Oprah gets the doc via satellite and covers the topic in more detail very soon.