Don’t Worry Baby is built around a conceit that wouldn’t be out of place in a raunchy ’80s comedy.
Through a set of increasingly awkward circumstances, underemployed millennial photographer Robert Lang (John Magaro) and his father, Harry (Christopher McDonald), a brusque womanizer and the head of the preschool where his son works, learn that either one of them may be the father of a girl newly enrolled in the school by wide-eyed single mom Sara-Beth (Dreama Walker).
The cringe factor is handled with a surprisingly neutral tone, the narrative primarily occupying the liminal space of undetermined fatherhood, with the paternity not revealed until the end. (Bro humor here is mostly left to Robert’s roommate, played by Tom Lipinski, whose Lenny does little more than watch porn and loudly interject on Robert’s and Harry’s conversations.)
The film is more interested in tension around the paternity than the actual results of the test, and the final moments are neither comic nor tragic. Also strange is the fact that Sara-Beth had a one-night stand with the (eventually revealed) father in the first place: These characters exhibit little chemistry. Don’t Worry Baby succeeds in establishing a tentative relationship between Robert and Sara-Beth, and the daughter, Mason (Rainn Williams), is suitably adorable as a beacon of innocence in a convoluted narrative.
Unsurprisingly, the film doesn’t live up to its Beach Boys–quoting title. Things turn out all right, but there’s little real emotional force.
Don’t Worry Baby
Written and directed by Julian Branciforte
Opens July 22
Available on demand