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Seniors and toddlers @ the movies 

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In the documentary Young@Heart, the work is already half-done within five minutes of the picture's first frame. A movie about a group of senior citizens (average age: 80) who tour internationally as a chorus covering rock and pop hits? Who could possibly resist such a sweet premise? Fortunately, director Stephen Walker moves the material far beyond its easy setting as a simple, feel-good romp; by the time it's all over, audience members will be moved (to laughter and tears), enlightened and inspired. One's enjoyment of the film can be measured by how much one might dig seeing elderly folks jamming to The Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated"; one's emotional connection to the material can be determined by how much one is floored when death comes calling to some of the members of the ensemble.

Initially, the tone is light: The first part of the film introduces us to the people who make up this Massachusetts-based choir as well as to their tough-love musical director, Bob Cilman. Cilman is trying to introduce some new tunes to the group's play list, and it's a Herculean task: The staggering number of "can"'s included in the lyrics for The Pointer Sisters' "Yes We Can Can" proves confusing, and no one can stand -- or understand -- Sonic Youth's "Schizophrenia" (several of the singers admit that they prefer classical music and show tunes in their personal lives).

If remembering lyrics were all these folks had to worry about, then they'd have it pretty easy. Unfortunately, with their advanced years comes advanced ailments, and before long, some of them are having to make ever-increasing visits to the hospital to monitor heart or cancer conditions. Thus, the movie morphs from simply showing how the unifying power of music can cross all lines (including age and social class) to touching on the notion that these senior citizens, like sharks, need to constantly be moving to stay alive. That Death still makes a appearance or two while they're pouring themselves into their songs makes our heartbreak all that more pronounced. Yet ultimately, Young@Heart is far from a bummer: Instead, it's a tribute to this nation's elderly, an ode to the power of the arts, and a salute to David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, Jimi Hendrix and the other musicians whose songs have found new rhyme and reason thanks to these geriatric rockers.

Note: Between now and May 15, the Manor (where Young@Heart will be shown starting this Friday) is accepting canned goods that will be donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank. Anyone who brings in a canned good will be eligible to enter a drawing to win free movie tickets. For more information, call the theater at 704-334-2727.

WITH WILL FERRELL, Adam Sandler and other comedians routinely hoarding the screens in our nation's multiplexes, here come Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to remind audiences that, like their male counterparts, girls just want to have fun. Indeed, the Cyndi Lauper hit of that name is granted its own karaoke-set scene in Baby Mama, and its inclusion is fitting in a movie that's similarly pointed, joyous and light on its feet.

Even funnier than Forgetting Sarah Marshall (which itself is pretty damn funny), this stars Fey as Kate Holbrook, a successful businesswoman who finds out that she only has a one-in-a-million chance of getting pregnant. Wanting a child more than a man (but open to both), this news hits her hard, and she turns to an agency to provide her with a surrogate mom. She ends up getting Angie Ostrowiski (Poehler), who clearly resides several rungs down the social ladder. After Angie becomes pregnant, circumstances force her to move in with Kate, and it's not long before Angie's slovenly lifestyle clashes with Kate's obsessive-compulsive behavior, and vice versa.

The plot complications arrive with clockwork precision, and it's this rigid formula (along with a ludicrous development at the end) that prevents a fine movie from being even better. Yet judging it strictly on its comic merits, Baby Mama delivers (pun not intended, I assure you). Scripter Michael McCullers (who also directed) serves up several killer quips guaranteed to remain among the year's freshest, and the two perfectly cast leading ladies are backed by an engaging mix of emerging talents and seasoned veterans.

Among the relative newcomers, Romany Malco is a bright presence as a straight-talking doorman, while Dax Shepard holds his own as Angie's doofus boyfriend. Yet it's the old pros who really shine: Sigourney Weaver is suitably smug as the head of the surrogate center, gamely being shellacked by some of the script's best zingers. And then there's Steven Martin, spot-on as the owner of the organic health food chain for which Kate works. Mocking New Age-y tendencies is a moldy idea long past its expiration date, yet in his portrayal of the ponytailed Barry, Martin positively makes it seem like a notion that's never been tackled before. Whether name-dropping celebrities with delicate precision or "rewarding" Kate with five minutes of uninterrupted eye contact, Barry is a real piece of P.C. work. And with this characterization, Martin emerges as Baby Mama's mack daddy.

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