I’ve often heard people refer to Baby Geniuses (1999) as one of the worst movies ever made… so when I saw that Ch5 were showing it last Sunday, I fired up my digibox and prepared to be appalled. Personally, I don’t think it’s anywhere near as hateful as Pledge This!, so I can’t honestly say it’s the worst movie I’ve ever seen… but it’s definitely one of the creepiest. Essentially, it’s a horror movie masquerading as a family-oriented comedy… and, much like Frankenstein’s monster, it doesn’t seem to understand just how horrific it is.
For those who don’t know, Baby G’s posits that (due to some unexplained glitch in the reincarnation process) all babies are born Enlightened with the secret knowledge of the Universe… which they then lose around the age of two, when they “cross over” to become the stupid, stumbling toddlers we’re more familiar with, and have to learn everything all over again! The central conflict of the movie finds two very different sets of “parents” competing to access this cosmic wisdom, for very different reasons: Sinister scientists ‘Dr. Elena Kinder’ (Kathleen Turner) and ‘Dr. Heep’ (Christopher Lloyd) are working in a secret lab hidden beneath their “Joyworld” theme park, and funded by their successful BabyCo toy business, where they experiment on a small group of pre-school “geniuses”. Meanwhile, kindly couple ‘Robin’ (Kim Cattrall) and ‘Dan’ (Peter MacNicol) are raising a gaggle of wards in a large, ramshackle nursery, along with their own daughter and adopted son. The main connection between these two teams (aside from the fact that Dan supposedly works for Kinder’s company in some vague, ill-defined capacity), is that the wily older woman has been using their nursery as a “control group”, to prove the effectiveness of her own child-rearing methods, via a pair of identical twins which she has split between the two facilities. The story is set in motion when one of those twins, ‘Sly’, escapes Kinder’s clutches, and inadvertently threatens to expose her whole operation after a wacky mix-up at the mall, where he is mistaken for his brother, ‘Whit’, and they are each taken home by the other’s guardians.
Gah! There… now I’ve put more time and effort into trying to synopsise this movie than the writers put into assembling the actual script. Although the plotting and dialogue are glaringly dumb, it’s actually sort of fun to pick it apart… which is why I have a terrible feeling I’m going to hang onto my recording for a while, so that I can share it’s absurd inanity with others. For instance, the opening scene where Sly uses his karate skills and super-strength to take down some security guards doesn’t make the slightest sense. I mean, I can buy into the premise that babies are smarter than they appear to be… blessed with a direct line to the Collective Unconscious, and their own secret language… but I can’t see how that would also imbue them with kick-ass fighting skills, and the ability to negate the basic laws of physics. Yes, I know it’s a kid’s movie and I’m over thinking it, but c’mon! I also don’t understand why supposedly “enlightened” beings would find it so hilarious to drop a heavy wrench on an innocent man’s crotch, for no reason at all.
Speaking of which, there’s a stand-out scene where a “goon” goes to retrieve Sly from the top of an attic staircase, where he has carefully positioned a ski on the steps, and is hiding a heavy iron behind his back. The goon stops at the foot of the stairs, and smugly scoffs: “Now, I guess you expect me to step over the ski and you’ll jump on the end and then the end will jump up and hit me in the gonads and I’ll scream and make a funny face and I’ll fall down the stairs. Well, I think you’ve been seein’ too many bad movies, pal, ‘cuz I’m just gonna step around the ski…” Sly then throws the iron at the goon’s head (!) so that he has to dodge by stepping over the ski… where he then dutifully waits for Sly to make a mean quip, before jumping on the ski so that it hits the goon in the groin. The goon then stumbles away in terrible pain, only to be replaced by a second goon… who gives the exact same speech and then falls for the exact same trick, in the exact same way. I couldn’t believe what I was watching! Twice! It’s like the sort of deliberate “anti-comedy” you’d expect to see on Family Guy… only I don’t think it was intentional here. If Sly were a teenager or an adult, he’d still be one of the most obnoxious and repugnant movie “heroes” of all time… but the fact that he’s a toddler with a CGI’d mouth and body-movements, just adds to the ickiness. And the scene where he flirts with a female baby in a pram so he can steal her clothes is just too disturbing to contemplate. He’s also one of the dumbest “geniuses” in history, since his whole master plan after escaping from the lab involves finding the nearest mall to live in, so he can spend the rest of his days eating snacks and playing video games!
After Sly, the movie’s most repellent character is probably ‘Baby Bunting’, a giant animatronic “baby” that waddles around the theme park, talking in an alarmingly deep voice, and threatening to cuddle the children. When Robin first sees this fresh horror, she simply bemoans the fact that the design appears to be plagiarised from one of Dan’s drawings… rather than running in fear, as any sane person would. Am I the only one who thinks that it looks like a (huge) balding dwarf, rather than a baby? What were these people thinking? Oy! As for the human cast members… I think it’s probably better for all concerned if we just give them a free pass, and pretend this never happened.
[Memo to would-be world-conquering villains: It’s probably worth thinking up a code name for your “secret lab”, rather than constantly referring to it as “the secret lab”… that’s just gonna make people suspicious]
[Memo to would-be theme-park founders: Don’t equip your animatronic aliens with working laser guns… that’s a blatant health-and-safety violation]
[Memo to would-be screenplay writers: The phrase “diaper gravy” does not get funnier every time you repeat it… so using it four or five times in quick succession is just gonna make people think you have mental issues]