Rated PG - Running time: 1:34 - Released 3/12/99

Thanks to computers, we have seen some dazzling special effects in films lately, but even the best medicines can have unwanted side effects. In this case it's Baby Geniuses, a film built around one slightly amusing trick. This isn't even the first film to do the computerized lip-sync gimmick — it's been done (better) in Babe. With its insipid story, uninspired characters, and sloppy technique, Baby Geniuses couldn't possibly appeal to anyone over 8 unless they just need to watch babies act cute.

The film was directed by Bob Clark (Porky's) and written by Steven Paul and Francisca Matos. It stars Kathleen Turner as Dr. Elena Kinder, a power-hungry baby products mogul and inventor of a revolutionary new method of child-rearing. Dr. Heep (Christopher Lloyd, made up to look exactly like Lenin) is her henchman, and Peter MacNicol and Kim Cattrall are Dan and Robin Bobbins, a sappily-married couple who run a conventional daycare center. But the real stars are a set of toddler triplets (Leo, Myles, and Gerry Fitzgerald) who portray a pair of twins caught up in Dr. Kinder's evil plot, and a slew of other tots playing cutesy back-up.

Dr. Kinder believes that babies are born with complete knowledge of the meaning of life, and that their jabbering is really the dead language of cuneiform. After they have a few years under their diapers, they "cross over" — they lose their smarts and become the ignorant little tykes we know and love. She wants to find a way to download their wisdom before the crossover, and therefore corner the market on baby-related merchandise.

Central to her plot is a pair of twins separated at birth, Sylvester and Whit (the Fitzgerald trips, voiced by Miko Hughes). "Sly" has spent his entire young life at Babyco, Kinder's vast underground research center, while Whit is in the care of the Bobbinses. Kinder plans to prove that her method of baby care is superior, and Sly and his fellow "geniuses" are carefully monitored as they sit around and discuss the human experience. But Sly escapes, gets switched with Whit, and the two conspire to bring down Kinder's empire, aided by the sure-fire mix of adult stupidity and infant resourcefulness.

Though the kids are cute, the movie is not. What is supposed to be a story championing infantile charm reduces the little actors to the role of ventriloquist's dummies, fitted with fakey, computer-animated mouths which spout clever things beyond their years. There are recycled pieces of film and soundtrack, slow- and fast-motion used to betray the audience, and, of course, the ever-present VIOLENCE. This film borrows heavily from the Home Alone series, but it doesn't even have the interesting adults: Turner and Lloyd are remarkably unremarkable; MacNicol and Cattrall turn the stomach.

Watching a 2-minute TV commercial of an infant dancing or saying something "grown-up" may be kind of cute. Watching 1½ hours of it is almost unbearable.

Copyright 1999 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

See Current Reviews

See FilmQuips Archive