Any movie about married mid-30s Angelenos who are deadly serious about launching their RV karaoke business is guaranteed to at least border on terminal cuteness.
Let’s Ruin It with Babies writer-director Kestrin Pantera ups the ante considerably by casting herself and real-life husband Jonathan Grubb — with whom she founded the real-life trendy RVIP franchise — in the central roles. It doesn’t help that this duo has a pint-sized pug named Batgirl; that Grubb has a preference for brown overalls; and that Pantera, with her rigid bangs, hoarse, Debra Winger-esque inflection, and schoolgirl pout, has more than a passing resemblance to Zooey Deschanel.
And yet the film’s worldview is so sunny and relaxed that it keeps you rooting for its self-obsessed inhabitants; unlike Deschanel, Pantera is clearly mocking her own SoCal hipster insularity. Channing (Pantera) resents her husband’s pressure to have children, and when his decision to take on — gasp! — a full-time job forces him to bail on the karaoke RV’s maiden voyage, she sees this as the ultimate betrayal.
Why can’t the two of them just skirt responsibility forever, partying, chugging Tecate, discussing the pros and cons of chocolate-covered strawberries with flirty co-workers 10 years their junior?
Babies‘ trajectory is slight and predictable, and there are cloying moments throughout (most of them involving Batgirl). But Pantera knows just when to cut back on the loopy, jumpy camerawork and let a scene breathe (the standout is a hilarious confrontation with burly, bearded Patrick Daniel as a loose-cannon mechanic).
Babies doesn’t apologize for its solipsism and that, ironically, makes it charming.