Baby Geniuses (1999)
Directed by Bob Clark
Cast: Leo Fitzgerald, Myles Fitzgerald, Gerry Fitzgerald, Kim Cattrall, Peter MacNicol, Kathleen Turner, Kyle Howard, Ruby Dee, Dom Deluise, Christopher Lloyd.
1999 93 minutes
Rated: (for mild profanity and violence).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, March 19, 1999.
In "Baby Geniuses," directed by the wildly uneven director of some great movies (1974's "Black Christmas" and 1983's "A Christmas Story") and a particularly awful one (1981's "Porky's"), the key selling-point that is brought up is that babies are actually geniuses who hold the key to all of life's questions and are able to understand all languages (even though they speak in "baby talk"), and it is only once they "cross over" at about age two that they forget everything and become a so-called normal person. Although this theory is far-fetched in the extreme, it also is admittedly kind of intriguing. The film itself, however, throws all original ideas out the window in the very first scene to become a sort of junior version of "Look Who's Talking," minus practically all the wit and brightness of the story and situations. After enduring this mainstream family movie (kids deserve a lot better than this, even if they may enjoy some of it), I think it's safe to say that director Clark should go back to making movies about Christmas, since that is apparently the only thing he's good at.
Partially set at Babyco, a company that includes the world's largest indoor amusement park (a visual delight for the limited amount of time it recieves), the evil founder, Dr. Childers (Kathleen Turner), has secretly turned the basement into a scientific test area where she keeps a slew of baby prodigies and studies them. One of the children, Sly, who is the leader of the baby group, actually has a twin named Whit (both are played by real-life triplets, Leo, Myles, and Gerry Fitzgerald), who is living with a nice family unknowing of this separation (Whit was adopted). Through a series of incidents, Sly escapes from his confines at Babyco and gets loose out in the city where, the following morning at the mall, he comes into contact with Whit and is switched with him by his mother (Kim Cattrall). And so on...and so on...and so on...
In its whole 93-minute running time, "Baby Geniuses" included about four or five amusing lines of dialogue by the babies ("The first words I say to my parents aren't going to be 'mama' or 'papa,'" says Whit's 15-month-old sister, "I'm just going to recite the whole Gettysburg Address"), but that's painfully stretching things, especially when nothing else works at all. Director Clark and screenwriters Clark and Greg Michael assume that audiences will fall for the movie if they stuff a whole bunch of "as-cute-as-a-button" babies down our throats, but in the process, they forgot to add a few vital elements, such as charm and entertainment. To top everything off, the baby talk that we hear in english is completely unconvincing when looking at the children, who obviously are the subjects of cheesy visual effects that make it look like they are moving their mouths.
That there are a few actors in "Baby Geniuses" that have proven to be talented in the past, the fact that they have stooped so low to appear in this clap-trap is mind-boggling. Kathleen Turner vamps her villainess role up, but like everyone else, has nothing at all to do except look mean and bothered. Faring even worse is Christopher Lloyd, who has lately fallen on hard times (he also appeared in the award-winning "My Favorite Martian" in this year alone!), and it was only once the movie was over that I wondered to myself, "did I really even see Christopher Lloyd in it?" I questioned myself on this not because Lloyd had a blink-and-you-miss-him part, but because he seemed to simply stand in the background of shots (or in extreme close-ups) and do nothing but be Turner's nasty henchman. Also making embarrassing appearances are the aforementioned Cattral, MacNicol, Dom Deluise, and of all people, Ruby Dee! By the way, feel free to laugh at these actors' plummeting film careers whenever the mood hits you.
By the time the tiresome, surprisingly violent climax began, the last nail had already been hammered in this unfortunate film's coffin, as we are subjected to seeing giant robotic babies and scary-looking clowns jumping out, and people falling from helicoptors onto the roof of a building. If this sounds at all like a nice, fun-for-the-whole-family children's movie, then I feel sorry for you, but by all means, take the kids. If, on the other hand, you think that your children deserve better, then I am sure you will also agree with my final point: the makers of "Baby Geniuses" were so concerned with, yes, making the babies geniuses, that they seem to have forgotten to include an inkling of intelligence into the film itself.
©1999 by Dustin Putman