In “I Don’t Know How She Does It,” Sarah Jessica Parker plays a Boston-based working mom struggling desperately to juggle marriage, children and a high-stress job. She wants to “have it all.” It’s a plight Diane Keaton maneuvered through more comically and affectingly in “Baby Boom” in 1987, when the concept was fresh. In this facsimile based on Allison Pearson’s best-seller no cliché or genre trope is safe.

In “I Don’t Know How She Does It,” Sarah Jessica Parker plays a Boston-based working mom struggling desperately to juggle marriage, children and a high-stress job. She wants to “have it all.” It’s a plight Diane Keaton maneuvered through more comically and affectingly in “Baby Boom” in 1987, when the concept was fresh. In this facsimile based on Allison Pearson’s best-seller no cliché or genre trope is safe.


Parker – playing a domesticated version of Carrie Bradshaw, including talking in voiceover – exudes some warmth, she is, after all, a mother of three. The problem isn’t so much Parker as much as it is the screenplay by Aline Brosh McKenna (“The Devil Wears Prada”), which is an insult to working mothers, stay-at-home mothers and single mothers. It’s an equal-opportunity offender. Women who choose to work, like our sassy heroine Kate Reddy, are just one big “untweezed eyebrow.” Women who choose not to work, like Kate’s nemesis Wendy Best (Busy Phillips, on a Stairmaster the entire film), are lazy shrews obsessing over their abs. And single mothers, like Kate’s best friend Allison Henderson (Christina Hendrickson), are hard-up women contributing unset orange Jell-O to their kid’s school bake sale. And if that’s not enough cookie-cutter characters for you to sink your teeth into, Olivia Munn plays Kate’s single and career-minded junior assistant who vows never to have children. In such a cliché role, Munn really is terrific and her Momo later in the film experiences one of the few realistic moments to be found.


What a director like Douglas McGrath – the infinitely superior “Infamous” and “Nicholas Nickleby” – is doing behind the camera here is a head-scratcher. The movie has a real messed-up sense of reality.


It’s hard to buy Parker’s Kate as a finance wizard when she is portrayed as a scatter-brained and frenzied mess. She wouldn’t have made it as far as she does in her career if she were that much of a disheveled train wreck.


Pierce Brosnan shows up as Kate’s dashing client. They spend a lot of hours burning the midnight oil on a “really big project” that’ll be a game changer for her career. Naturally, Kate’s marriage to her architect husband (Greg Kinnear) suffers. She’s also pulled away from her two small children more than she’d like. And while juggling the pressure to be Super Mom, Kate gets an earful from her mother-in-law (Jane Curtain) about what’s best for the kids – such as maybe the 2-year-old boy would be talking by now if Kate chose to be an at-home mother. Kate’s also fending off a back-stabbing chauvinist colleague (Seth Meyers) and a male boss (Kelsey Grammar) who cringes at the word mammogram. What year is this?


Motherhood is a very bipolar existence. Whether you work, don’t work or are a single mother, there are a lot of extreme highs and extreme lows.


By nature, there is a lot of comedy and drama to be mined from that. But does every film have to tackle it the same way?


The Uma Thurman flick “Motherhood” had the same trite characters and similar mommy moments. Moms – and dads, too (they’re kinda dolts here) – deserve better movies than “I Don’t Know How She Does It,” which just overindulges in a mother lode of child-rearing and motherhood stereotypes.


At least Boston looks terrific in the scenes shot here. They are fun to see, and since the film is so dull, you’ll enjoy trying to spot props in the background like a Boston Ballet poster or a local newspaper.


But those sights can easily wait until “I Don’t Know How She Does It” comes out on video in what will likely be just a few short months.


Dana Barbuto may be reached at dbarbuto@ledger.com.


I DON’T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT (PG-13 for adult situations and language.) Cast includes Sarah Jessica Parker, Greg Kinnear and Pierce Brosnan. 1 star out of 4.