[Screen It]


(1999) (Kathleen Turner, Kim Cattrall) (PG)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
None Minor Moderate *Mild Minor
Moderate None Moderate None Mild
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Minor Minor Minor Moderate Mild

Comedy: In a world where infants are inherent geniuses and speak with a language of their own, a two-year-old attempts to blow the cover of a corrupt corporation that's trying to mine the infants' intelligence for its own good.
Dr. Elena Kinder (KATHLEEN TURNER) is a world-renowned child psychiatrist and CEO of BABYCO, an infant-care product corporation. Few people know, however, that deep within the bowels of her headquarters, she and her assistant, Heep (CHRISTOPHER LLOYD), are conducting secret experiments on a group of infants they apparently own.

It seems that they believe that children are born geniuses due to a gene passed down through the generations. Being the scheming and ambitious villains that they are, Kinder and Heep want to tap this intelligence for their own good, but have yet to break the infants' gobbledygook language that's actually quite sophisticated and intelligently understood among all kids under the age of two.

Plotting further to prove her point, Kinder has taken a pair of identical twins, Whit and Sly (alternately played by LEO, MYLES and GERRY FITZGERALD) and separated them, keeping Sly for her experiments and allowing her niece, Robin Bobbins (KIM CATTRALL), to adopt and traditionally raise Whit.

Robin and her loving husband, Dan (PETER MacNICOL), along with their assistants Lenny (DOM DeLUISE), Margo (RUBY DEE) and teenager Dickie (KYLE HOWARD), run the Bobbins Nursery where Dan has his own theories about infants having their own languages, but neither he nor his associates are remotely aware of Kinder's plans.

That changes when two-year-old Sly breaks out of the BABYCO headquarters and, through an occurrence of mistaken identity, gets Whit and his family involved. As Kinder orders her henchmen to find and return Sly, the ever resourceful toddler does what he can to undermine her efforts and expose her plan.

Preschoolers might, but older preteens and definitely teenagers will probably avoid this film like the plague.
For some rude behavior and dialogue.
  • KATHLEEN TURNER and CHRISTOPHER LLOYD play two scheming individuals who keep infants under lock and key while trying to decode their secret language that they hope will make them powerful and wealthy.
  • KIM CATTRALL and PETER MacNICOL, on the other hand, play loving parents who want what's best for their, and other children.
  • The FITZGERALD TRIPLETS play the twins Whit and Sly, the latter of whom is a resourceful toddler who has no qualms about crossing a busy street, fending off would-be attackers and kidnapers, etc...


    OUR TAKE: 0 out of 10
    There's an old saying in Hollywood that as a performer, one should never work with animals or children. That's not only because they're occasionally difficult to work with, but they'll often upstage or otherwise make their adult co-stars look bad. Had the originator of that saying known that years later both sets of diminutive performers would be capable of adult conversation, I'm sure they would have strengthened the warning.

    Of course, vocal special effects have come a long way since the old peanut butter in the mouth days of Mr. Ed and Lancelot Link, or even the more recent "let's try to try to match it as close as possible" tactics used in the "Look Who's Talking" trilogy. From "Forrest Gump" to the "Babe" pictures, the art of lip manipulation is continually getting better.

    Unfortunately, many filmmakers forget the cinematic decree that states that "just because you can, doesn't mean you should," and "Baby Geniuses" is a perfect example of that wisdom. Nothing but a retreading of the formula having babies who talk and think like adults, which was beaten to death in those "Look Who's Talking" films, this picture is a travesty of immense proportions.

    Obviously aimed at preschoolers, the film should -- and probably will -- mortify their parents or any other hapless souls who mistakenly wander into a theater showing this picture. To make matters worse, the key ingredient of this film -- the special effect of making the toddlers look like they're actually talking -- is often horrendously executed, but that should come as no surprise considering how the rest of the picture pans out.

    While the cute kids and a few meager sight gags are the film's sole and barely redeemable qualities, this is cinematic torture at its best (or worst, depending on how your view of such things). Beyond the familiar and minimally intriguing premise of those talking toddlers who have the vast wisdom of the universe stored in their genes -- at least until the age of two when they "pass over" to become like the rest of us -- the film lacks the necessary charisma (exuded by Travolta, Alley and voice of Bruce Willis in those other talking baby pictures) or an interesting and charming story (such as in "Babe") to get anywhere beyond that set-up.

    Instead, it evokes the age-old plot concerning the cartoon-like, villainous buffoon characters who wish to exploit the children's gift. Why this is, we'll never know since most of the toddlers' intelligence seems to be based on the ability to mimic bits of dialogue or behavior from other films.

    As such, we're "treated" to babies who dance like Travolta in "Saturday Night Fever," or spout dialogue like Schwarzenegger's "Hasta la vista, baby," Mike Myers doing his groovy Austin Powers character and saying "Oooh, bee-haaaveeee," and of course, that infamous blood curdling scream from "Home Alone."

    While we understand that writer/director Bob Clark ("Porky's," "Rhinestone") and co-writer Steven Paul are trying to appease the adults with such material, most everyone -- save the few moviegoers who will laugh at anything simply because they've managed to get out of the house -- will set there in dumfounded horror at the merciless beating their cerebral cortex is taking.

    As the villains, Kathleen Turner ("Romancing the Stone," "Body Heat") and Christopher Lloyd (TV's "Taxi," the "Back to the Future" films), beyond not following the afore mentioned Hollywood advice -- or apparently taking the time to read the script before signing their contracts -- have sunken to new lows in what were once burgeoning and respected careers. Delivering horribly overacted performances, the two manage to create neither interesting nor memorable characters.

    Their more "normal" counterparts -- Kim Cattrall ("Unforgettable") and Peter MacNicol (TV's "Ally McBeal") don't fair any better -- but at least aren't quite as obnoxious -- while the likes of Dom DeLuise (the "Cannonball Run" films) and Ruby Dee ("A Raisin in the Sun") are inexplicably cast in their bit parts for no apparent reason other than needing a paycheck.

    Films aimed specifically at entertaining kids-- such as the wonderful "A Bug's Life" -- are perfectly acceptable, and ones that manage to simultaneously entertain their parents or other adults are appreciatively welcomed. Yet when stinkers like this one come out, it gives such films a bad name and makes people want to avoid them.

    Teaming with abominable material throughout -- including, but certainly not limited to, the lousy special effects (including some horrendous set construction), bad acting, and contrived dialogue, the film's only distinction -- before heading to video faster than a diaper needs changing -- will be making most critics "worst of the year" lists. As such, and not surprisingly, we give the odorous "Baby Geniuses" a 0 out of 10.

    Here's a quick look at the content found in this PG-rated film that's obviously aimed at young kids. Profanity gets a mild rating due to the number of words used (although there are no "s" words included), while the number of "colorful" phrases and other behaviors that may be imitated are plentiful enough to warrant a moderate rating for that category.

    Some intended humor is bodily based (soiled diapers, picking one's nose, grown men getting hit in the crotch), and some sexual innuendo is present but will probably go over most younger kids' heads.

    Some slapstick style violence also occurs (babies punching people, etc...) and a few of the chase/fight scenes -- as well as the material involving adults trying to nab/adduct the toddlers -- may be suspenseful/scary to younger kids, but that's clearly dependent on their age and tolerance for such material.

    Since this film is obviously targeting the little ones, you may want to take a closer look at what's been listed to make sure the film is appropriate for them should you decide to see it.

  • None.
  • To escape from BABYCO, Sly must hide in a cart of soiled diapers (we don't see anything on them), but he reacts and comments on the smell, and others also say, "Diaper gravy."
  • Having hypnotized Lenny, the other kids make Sly have him pick his nose (he does, as does Dickie whom we later see with his finger still in his nose).
  • Obviously Elena, Heep and their associates have both for keeping and testing infants.
  • Depending on a child's age, level of maturity and tolerance for such matters, the following may be somewhat, or not at all suspenseful/scary to them.
  • The opening scene, accompanied by action-oriented suspense music and showing the point of view of someone trying to elude others (which is really Sly having escaped from BABYCO and getting ready to fight the bad guys) may be suspenseful to younger viewers.
  • The whole concept of the infants kept and tested at BABYCO may be unsettling to some kids, as might the worker's efforts to essentially abduct/kidnap Sly once he's escaped (and in one scene they carry him -- actually Whit -- off in a closed duffel bag).
  • While little kids probably won't find a scene where Sly sits in the middle of a busy road and just makes it across the street as scary, it will probably unnerve many parents.
  • In a darkened alley, Sly suddenly sees a man's face pushed up against some plastic.
  • The climatic action scene where the infants battle the henchman, Elena abducts Whit, and both Robin and Dan grab her as she holds onto a ladder suspended from a helicopter may be intense for some younger viewers.
  • Laser guns: Used by some robotic figures to zap Elena and others in an amusement park.
  • Handguns: Drawn and aimed by police as they show up to arrest Elena.
  • Phrases: "Don't have a cow," "Nuts" (crazy), "Chicks" (for young girls), "Sucks," "Jerk," "Putz," "Quack," "Diaper Gravy" (for the contents and/or smell of soiled diapers), "Idiots," Imbeciles," "Morons," "Gonads" (the part of the body where two henchman state they know Sly is intending to hit them), "Let's kick butt," "Suckers" and "The caca's gonna hit the fan."
  • Sly says to an adult who can't understand him, "If you're going to talk out of your ass all of the time, why don't you wear a bow tie on your butt?"
  • Sly spits water into the face of one of BABYCO's directors.
  • A huge, robotic "infant" lets out an echoing burp.
  • Since several scenes try to mine humor from men being hit in the crotch in various ways (a monkey wrench landing there, Sly causing a ski to hit two men there), some kids may try to imitate that.
  • We see Dickie (a teenager) in various scenes with dyed hair, a nose-ring, and with tattoo-like images on his body.
  • Sly escapes and then crosses a busy street and walks down a dark alley by himself, and later we see him with a cigar in his mouth (as he's "in disguise").
  • Sly whacks an older man in the face (Three Stooges style), sprays something in his face, and then slams a bar of soap into that man's mouth.
  • A kid blows a raspberry at Elena, and some guards later do the same after being hypnotized.
  • None.
  • A moderate amount of action-oriented and otherwise ominous or suspenseful music occurs in many scenes.
  • None.
  • At least 6 hells, 1 ass, 1 damn, and 5 uses of "Oh my God" and 1 use each of "My God" and "Swear to God" as exclamations.
  • Hiding in a baby carriage with a little girl and needing another disguise, Sly tells her, "Take off her clothes." She replies, "Okay, slick. But at least you could take me to (or "buy me") dinner first." We later see him in her clothes and obviously nothing happened between them, but the adult joke is still there.
  • After telling Robin that they should "create" another child, we see Dan nuzzling on her neck. After she says that they can if he'll carry the child (ie. Be pregnant with it), he says, "Okay, let's start now." Although she states that they can talk about that later, we then see them racing up the stairs after commenting that no one or thing is stirring in the house (meaning the coast is clear to have sex).
  • Seeing Dickie with a tattoo/drawing of the sun on his belly that's partially covered by his pants, Margo says, "The sun has set in that boy's pants" causing Lenny to say, "He wishes."
  • An older man has a stub of a cigar in his mouth, and moments later we see Sly walking down the street "in disguise" with an unlit cigar in his mouth. Later, after changing clothes with a little girl, we see her with that cigar in her mouth.
  • We see a pack of cigarettes in Dickie's rolled up T-shirt sleeve.
  • Robin and Dan worry about Elena having abducted Whit.
  • Kids who are kidnaped or abducted -- this film may cause some to worry that it may happen to them.
  • How children should be raised.
  • Where the parents (if any) were for the children "imprisoned" in the BABYCO testing facilities.
  • Sly punches some guards and uses martial arts moves (flipping them to the ground, etc...) on others who try to catch him.
  • Whit tosses a large monkey wrench to Lenny that instead lands on the man's crotch.
  • Sly whacks an older man in the face (Three Stooges style), sprays something in his face, and then slams a bar of soap into that man's mouth.
  • As some men try to grab Sly in an indoor playground, Sly punches one of them in the face and slides down a tube and kicks two more.
  • Sly throws an iron at a henchman who's coming after him. The man ducks out the way, but then straddles a ski that Sly steps on sending it crashing into the man's crotch (what the kids later call "The forbidden zone"). He then repeats this for a second henchman.
  • A large robotic baby punches several men and knocks them across an amusement park. Other robotic figures then fire "laser guns" that zap Elena and others. A robotic Santa and some elves also hit some of Elena's men. Other men are then "clotheslined" by a raised wire, while others are knocked down by some infants swinging by them on ropes.
  • Robin punches Elena.

  • Reviewed March 6, 1999 / Posted March 12, 1999

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