Punishment Revisited: Baby Geniuses

 I still have one more piece of cinematic punishment to gorge on before I have completed my obligations as loser of the 2022 Sumer Box Office Challenge on The Movie Breakdown.  My hope was to have it out of the way right now, but the truth is that for some silly reason I have been watching way too many awful movies the last two weeks, and I need to be kind to myself.  Until then, here is a review for Baby Geniuses from November, 2018, a movie forced on me for having lost this very competition.  I hate competitions, by the way.

Original Review: If I didn't lose a competition then I never would have seen this film.  I will make that very clear right now.  Netflix, I know you see what I watch and you probably believe that because I clicked on something then it is worth keeping on your service.  It is not.  I made sure to give Baby Geniuses a thumbs down, but I am concerned that isn't adequate.  Picture the world's thumb wrestling champion turning their roided up opposable digit to the ground with the emphasis of thirteen William Wallace's screaming 'FREEDOM', and then multiply that by a factor of ten and we are starting to get into the neighbourhood.  It still isn't a good neighbourhood.

Interesting, Baby Geniuses doesn't have a single baby in it.  If we are playing the semantics game (and I think we should be up for playing any game possible because it will all be more fun than the movie) the film is populated by toddlers.  It's toddlers.  Not babies.  In this mess of a movie, any human being below the age of two knows all of the secrets of the universe.  Yes, toddlers (not babies) apparently know everything from the meaning of Stonehenge to the Caramilk Secret.  Essentially they are Google Kids. 

This film starts in a horrible state.  In the first five minutes we have ugly fish eye camera, awkward and poorly framed tight shots of people's faces, titled cameras (because we all know that tilting a camera is a good substitute for a script), semi-extreme closeups (Wayne knows what I'm talking about), and hideous slow motion.  Just because a movie is made for kids doesn't mean it should have absolutely obnoxious directing.  It is terrible.  I called it quits at the five minute mark and had to wait a day before I was able to return to it.

For some reason there is an underground facility that houses lots of baby geniuses.  Kathleen Turner and Christopher Lloyd are bad people, and I guess the kids are good.  Remember, they're Google Kids, so they're going to advertise to you if they can.  I would like to tell you the exact reason for these kids being used by evil people, but I seriously couldn't care at the time of watching it, and I couldn't care less while writing about it.  Director Bob Clarke did everything he could to tell me what was going on.  After the first opening sequence, the next ten minutes are simply bang you over the head expository dialogue.  It is so bad that we have Christopher Lloyd's character for some reason asking a computer voice to tell him the synopsis of their evil program.  Ugh.

Look, director Bob Clarke missed the mark on this one.  To me, he is someone who brought two very important movies to audiences.  He did the immortal A Christmas Story, and he was almost ahead of his contemporaries in a way with Black Christmas.  Oh, and he did Porky's, for which I don't believe he ever apologized.  He did some bad things, but he also made some classics.  Any abilities that were evident in other films were absent in Baby Geniuses.  Technically, this thing is about as low quality as you can get from a wide release movie.  There is so much dialogue that is dubbed.  I'm not sure what happened in the audio department, but the sound difference between what is dubbed and what isn't is plenty big.  It sounds horrible, and it looks ugly as the words we hear aren't even close to syncing with people's lips.   This. Is. Bad.

People may say, 'oh, it's not too bad, and it's just for kids.'  Sometimes it seems as though people have the thought that movies for kids shouldn't be held up to similar standards as other films.  No matter what a movie is about, the people making it should care about their work.  Some of my favourite movies of the past five years have been family films, and I enjoyed them because their creators cared about them.  With Baby Geniuses, it is evident that nobody in production or post production pushed for this to be a quality product, and I'm talking simply from a technical standpoint.  The script is another mess completely, and the acting is from people who appear to have lost a bet.  What is really sad, and I'm not exaggerating on this, is that made for TV movies have better polish and audio than this thing.

The main event of the film, the 'babies (two year olds that are super brilliant but don't know a single English word), could be described as cute at times I suppose.  However, with the special effects employed to move their mouths to dialogue and to get them to do things like dancing can make them creepier than Paul Reubens as the Tooth Fairy.  To the film's credit, there are a few moments where they seem to have gotten the exact expressions and motions out of the kids as they needed, but that really doesn't happen often enough to forget just how bad things look at times.  And also, the horrible, grainy looking slow motion shots that make an appearance at the beginning and end of the film are amateurish.

Music is a bit of a curiosity in this film as well.  I don't know a quality movie that would choose to un-ironically use Taco's version of 'Puttin on the Ritz.'  Yes, it is the song with the music video where the two black face people chant 'super duper' for some reason.  Oh, and then they ol' timey tap dance.  The song is about as 80s of a song as you can get, and it is cringe worthy.  Why they didn't use the original, quality version is something I will never know.  Also, and even more baffling, there is a final song that seems to function as a send off to all of the antics of the 'babies' at the end of the film.  We are seeing cheerful clips of the 'babies' while there is a life zapping country song playing.  The rhythm is soooo dreadfully dull, and the enthusiasm in the singer's voice makes it sound like he was burying his dead horse when his wife left him after getting a notice that the bank is foreclosing, which means they are going to lose the farm that's been in the family for five generations of McCanty's, and there is no way that she is going to let her kids grow up in the home of a failure McCanty.  The song for that final montage is such an atrocious pick, and it is better suited for some sort of drunken funeral march than for a film about 'babies,' genius or no.

I love A Christmas Story. I've been in love with it since I first saw it as a young kid, and I doubt I will ever change the channel if it is on the television.  I only saw Black Christmas a few years ago, but it instantly stood out as a horror that was predicting things to come.  Bob Clark was a skilled director, but for some reason he decided to forget everything he had learned about the process of making a movie over the decades and trade it in for the creation of a mockery that the KGB would use to extract information from captured spies.

Yes, this is a kids movie, but that shouldn't stop a reasonable adult from wanting quality.  You don't feed old batteries in pesto to children just because they are kids and they won't appreciate prime rib, so why feed them something like this.  They still deserve attention to detail, care, and a modicum of respect for their time.  Some of the world's greatest films are for the whole family (such as Wizard of Oz), and they are that way because the people making them believed in what they were doing.  The folks behind Baby Geniuses couldn't be bothered to make sure audio syncs up with what we see, something that even a novice can do, and I'm speaking as someone who did video editing for community television when I was a teen.  The issues of this film are so easily overcome, but they exist because there are some out there that believe your cherished children aren't worthy of effort.

If you're cruising around for something to watch, this shouldn't be it.  Burlap sacks are more intriguing than anything you will find in Baby Geniuses.  Enough people liked it for them to make a sequel, but don't be fooled by that.  This is a technically sloppy film that literally has someone asking a computer to for some reason tell him the entire plot for the movie.  Or maybe he got the computer to tell him the backstory.  I don't know, and it doesn't matter.  It was a slothful device.  I cannot think of a single movie I have seen with less effort in a script in what is one of the laziest forms of expository dialogue that you will ever find.  Resist.  Stay away.  Watch something like Inside OutThe Lion King, The Princess Bride, or The Secret of NIMH, each of them wonderful works that know to treat your family with respect, films that toil to nail each aspect of story telling.  Or, you could pull out that burlap sack from behind the thirty year old cross country skies in the shed and let your kids contemplate the significance of such a sack. They will enjoy that a whole lot more than Baby Geniuses, and you will know that deep down you gave them the better, more fulfilling option.

Rating - 0.5 out of 4 stars