Review: Look who's balking at 'Baby Geniuses'
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By Reviewer Paul Tatara
(CNN) -- You'd have to have experienced meetings with desperate movie producers or low-rung script development people to understand the impetus behind a movie like "Baby Geniuses." As the title so bluntly suggests, this is a story about genius babies, babies that are so smart they can manipulate the adult world like it's a pile of Play-Doh; babies who can understand everything you and I understand, only with more knowing sarcasm.
I'm tellin' ya, these babies are the smartest babies in the entire history of babies. All of that's just window dressing, though, when you realize that these babies can talk!!
I can almost guarantee you that all this stuff about infantile super-intelligence was cooked up at a meeting one morning the moment somebody walked in and said, "Did you see that commercial on TV last night where the baby talks?" Then, a little cash register noise sounded in each head sitting around the big, polished table in the big, polished office, in the big, polished city. "Look Who's Talking," the cash register strongly implied, "except that we now have the technology to make the babies' mouths move!!"
Story? Who cares. Character development? That's for show-offs. Funny dialogue? Too hard to write. These babies can talk!! I'll get around to the actors and the plot-thingy in a minute, but I want to stress that, yes, the effects are pretty amazing.
Obviously, there's some computer graphic handiwork going on here, but you'd swear to God that the dialogue these Pampers-wearers deliver is actually being spoken by them. The mouth and facial movements match the utterances perfectly, and the kids themselves are individual, identifiable entities, not just a series of cute faces. But the movie feels like a very bad dinner with incredible condiments.
The so-called story
Here's what "happens." Kathleen Turner and Christopher Lloyd play the masterminds behind an ill-defined think-tank of some sort called BABYCO. They've separated a pair of twin brothers at birth, raising one of them in their ultra-sophisticated underground laboratory.
The other kid was adopted by Turner's unknowing nephew (Peter MacNicol). He and his wife (Kim Cattrall) run a nursery. It, of course, is full of babies. Dom DeLuise (standing again after, one would imagine, quite a few salads) and Ruby Dee (standing again after, one would have imagined, her death several years ago) play the nursery's main staff members.
The baby raised at the lab has been put through its paces by mastermind Lloyd, so it's now a ... baby genius. The kid can rewire toys and turn them into high-tech surveillance gear with an offhand panache that would make E.T. stand up and salute. He eventually escapes from the compound, and -- here's a shock -- winds up getting switched at the mall and going home with Cattrall. Her actual son is then captured and sent back to Turner and Lloyd, or, if you substitute a flying squirrel for the baby, Boris and Natasha.
More smart-alecky than smart
The basis for all the conversation between the babies is the idea that, for the first years of their lives, humans know literally everything that can possibly be known. After they start talking, though, they forget it all and they're suddenly dumb.
But until then, they can understand each other's baby talk, so this enables director Bob Clark to waste gobs of time by having the kids crack wise at anything that moves, all in an effort to belittle the surrounding, stuffed-shirt grown-ups. Hell, that's what I do. I wanted more geniuses. It's not called "Baby Smart Alecs."
Lloyd is a great character actor, but the character may need to take some time out and re-group. How many mad scientists does one guy have in him? As for Turner, the voice is getting more bizarre with every performance. She continually sounds like a smoker who's been forced to run laps. Or Lauren Bacall being smothered with a pillow.
And this coming from the director of "Porky's" and "Rhinestone." How did it ever miss?
As you can imagine, there's not much in the way of profanity in "Baby Geniuses." Kids often seem to be in danger during the movie, so your very small young 'uns are lucky in that they shouldn't attend. Rated PG. 94 minutes.
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