September 10, 2001 12:00 PM

Hugh Laurie, Joely Richardson, Adrian Lester, Rowan Atkinson, Emma Thompson, Tom Hollander

Sam and Lucy Bell live the good life in London. Both are attractive and work at glamorous jobs (he’s an exec at the BBC, she’s a theatrical agent), and money is no problem. They long for a baby, however, and, despite diligent conjugal efforts and much medical help, haven’t been successful.

Maybe Baby is a blithe but knowing romantic comedy about infertility and the stress it causes. The pressures multiply when Sam (Laurie) writes a film about the duo’s baby troubles but keeps his script a secret from Lucy (Richardson). She, meanwhile, is possibly falling for a handsome movie-star client. Tyro director Ben Elton, who adapted the movie from his own 1999 novel, Inconceivable, occasionally lets Baby become what the British call twee (think of Ally McBeal), but this is a promising debut. Laurie and Richardson are likable and comfortable with both comedy and drama, and there are side-splitting cameos by Atkinson as a wacky fertility specialist and Thompson as a hippie pal. (R)

Bottom Line: Laudable labor

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