By Steve Davis
MARCH 22, 1999:
D: Bob Clark; with Kathleen Turner, Christopher Lloyd, Kim Cattrall, Peter MacNicol, Ruby Dee, Dom DeLuise, Kaye Ballard. (PG, 94 min.)
Baby Geniuses is infantile, in every sense of the word. The movie anthropomorphizes
toddlers by giving them the power of adult speech; no monosyllabic gibberish for
these kids. Are they cute? No, just creepy. Watching their computer-enhanced conversations
brings to mind those television cartoon characters with superimposed human mouths.
It's as if they've had an orifice transplant that didn't quite take (these babes
are no Babe). Cheaply made, the premise of this apparent homage to Look Who's Talking
is based on the notion that youngsters possess the secrets of the world after birth,
but eventually "cross over" and lose this knowledge at age two or so. (Dr.
Spock obviously neglected to include this chapter in his childcare manual.) The gimmick
gives the movie's infants license to wisecrack, swear, engage in sexual innuendo,
and assert their superiority over adults for 90 or so excruciating minutes. The kids
also inexplicably possess superhuman strength, which prompts Home Alone-type physical
abuse of their elders. Not to worry: The infliction of a painful injury is always
followed by an infectious giggle. Trying to encapsulate the movie's storyline is
not possible; it doesn't appear to have one. It's just babies, babies, babies, all
saying the darnedest things. Although billed as a comedy, Baby Geniuses is a tragedy
of epic proportions when considering Turner's performance as the movie's villainess.
She's a one-note harridan; her lacquered hair has a greater range of expression than
she does. Who would have ever thought that this wonderful actress would one day find
herself uttering the line, "Get them, you fools!" and sounding as if she
really meant it? Some may view Turner's appearance in this movie as yet another example
of the lack of decent roles for actresses over 40; others may see it as a cry for
help. Whatever the case, she deserves better than being upstaged by a bunch of bambinos.
For that and a zillion other reasons, Baby Geniuses is the best argument for stronger
child labor laws since the Olsen twins.
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