Baby Geniuses
Baby Geniuses USA, 1999.  Rated PG.  94 minutes.

Cast: Kathleen Turner, Christopher Lloyd, Kim Cattrall, Peter MacNicol, Dom DeLuise, Ruby Dee, Kyle Howard, Leo Fitzgerald, Myles Fitzgerald, Gerry Fitzgerald
Writers: Bob Clark & Greg Michael (screenplay); Steven Paul, Francisca Matos, Robert Grasmere (story)
Music: Paul Zaza
Cinematographer: Stephen M. Katz
Producer: Steven Paul
Director: Bob Clark

  Grade: F
Kid Grade: A
Review by Jen Walker

An open letter to parents from Jen

M y 8-year-old daughter, Michele, is living proof that children will eat up anything that Hollywood dishes out to them. She loved Baby Geniuses. She laughed every time one of the babies smarted off to an adult, every time one of them punched a man in the balls, and every time Kathleen Turner hollered, "You idiots!"

Although I'd never say this to her, I'm extremely disappointed in her reaction to this movie. I thought I'd brought her up to have better taste. She's also an extremely bright child, and while watching this debacle, I gaped in horror as I actually witnessed her IQ dropping before my eyes. By the end of the movie, she was up out of her seat, jumping up and down, and repeating lines such as, "Let's kick butt!" and "Eww! Diaper gravy!"  I finally had to threaten to turn it off if she didn't settle down and be quiet. Unfortunately, she heeded my threat and I had to sit through the whole thing.

This is the story of twins, Sylvester and Whit (the Fitzgerald triplets), who were separated at birth. Sly was sent to live in a laboratory, run by Dr. Elena Kinder (Turner) and Dr. Heep (Lloyd). Whit, the lucky one, was adopted by Kinder's niece, Robin Bobbins (Cattrall) and her husband, Dan (MacNicol), who run a daycare and research child behavior. Dan has discovered that when babies talk to each other, they speak a very distinct language. He also believes in a Tibetan philosophy that states that babies under the age of three are born with all the knowledge in the universe. At a certain age, they "cross over" and forget it all. Little Whit is being brought up in a very loving home. Turner and Lloyd

Sly, in contrast, is basically being tormented by Dr. Kinder, along with all of the other babies she has taken out of orphanages. She plans to harness this baby super-knowledge in order to take over the world. Sly escapes her flashy, high-tech lab several times and she throws tyrannical fits when she discovers him missing.

Of course, eventually the babies meet each other and end up getting switched. And of course all the adults are too moronic to know the difference. And of course, the rest of the babies come to the rescue, to the tune of the score to The Great Escape.

The plot is the least of this movie's problems. The dialogue is atrocious. First of all, all the scientific jargon being bandied about to explain the idiotic plot is useless. I watched Michele's eyes glass over as Lloyd rattled off terms like, "frontal lobe" and "neuro-pathways." Those lengthy explanations were accompanied by neato computer graphics that pleased Michele's eyes and bored me to death. And for some reason, Lloyd was always shot with a fish-eye lens during those scenes, making my kid giggle even though he wasn't saying anything funny.

Speaking of funny, all the gags are either extremely low-brow, or they make references to R-rated movies that, hopefully, kids have never seen. I lost count of how many times poop was mentioned, but I did keep tally of how many times men got wracked in the balls--3. Ha. Ha. Now, I enjoy slapstick just as much as anybody, but when they play out the exact same nad gag twice, right in a row, I stop laughing. It's usually okay when a children's movie contains some humor that's intended just for adults.  Antz is one of my favorite kiddie-films for just that reason. The difference is, Antz is funny. Hearing a little kid say, "Hasta la vista, baby" in a bad Arnold accent, or shout "Show me the money!" when that phrase doesn't even fit the scene, is not. For the life of me, I can't figure out who this is supposed to appeal to.

During the movie, we're privy to the private dialogue between babies. Apparently babies are born with potty mouths. The first thing we hear a baby say to Dr. Kinder is, "Listen, Doc. If you're gonna talk out of your ass all the time, maybe you should wear a bow tie on your butt." Later, when Sly needs a disguise and wants to trade clothing with a female baby, we get to hear Sly say, "Take off your clothes," and the baby girl replies, "The least you could do is take me to dinner first." Now, I know that kids weren't meant to get this joke, but are we parents supposed to find sexual innuendo between toddlers amusing?

And now, the performances. All I have to say is; shame, shame, shame on Hollywood for forcing Kathleen Turner to resort to this garbage! Her half-hearted Cruella DeVil impression lacked any wicked glee, and I could tell that she was embarrassed to even utter some of those lines. As for the rest of the cast, Christopher Lloyd phones in his performance, and MacNicol and Cattrall sound like they're doing a cold read-through of the script. And the babies... those poor babies.

And my poor baby! I can't believe I subjected her to this! Please, parents, do not let your children watch this movie. It is mean-spirited, offensive, and worst of all, stupid. It's going to take me at least a week to undo the damage it's done to her. It's going to take several reminders that "Diaper gravy" is inappropriate to blurt out at the dinner table before our family fully recovers from Baby Geniuses.

Review © October 1999 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
Images © 1999 Tristar Pictures.