What?! A multinational baby product company, BabyCo, has started experimenting on babies to discover advanced learning techniques. As a control they’ve separated twins, Sly and Whit, to prove the method works. Using his superhuman strength and smarts, Sly is able to escape the lab, leading to the recapture of Whit by mistake. Will the switcheroo be discovered in time to free the babies and bring BabyCo down? Find out in… Baby Geniuses!
Why?! Alright, I know that little synopsis may sound confusing (particularly as a plot to a kid’s film and not a surrealist horror film). Don’t worry, it’s even more confusing when you actually watch it. On the face of it there is a pretty clear reason why BabyCo is flaunting bioethical mores and engaging in baby experimentation: they hope to develop a learning technique so great that everyone will jump at the chance to pay big money to get their kid enrolled. Muddling all this, though, is the fact that both BabyCo and Whit’s father, Dan, are also obsessed with learning the ancient baby language, which purportedly holds all the secrets to the meaning of life (and conveniently explains why all babies secretly talk like adults). I guess BabyCo hopes to use the “babytalk” language to further develop the Kinder method. As for the babies, they’re motivation seems to be freedom and bringing the separated twins back together. Unrightfully separating twins is of course the greatest crime known to man, one that the Atlantic Ocean is guilty of as we speak. Fuck you, Ocean.
How?! Like any good scientist, BabyCo’s chief researcher, Dr. Heep, set up a controlled experiment with twins Sly and Whit so as to definitively prove the Kinder Method is superior to other learning methods. Unfortunately the method works too well (or maybe Sly and Whit are just naturally too smart, it’s never made all that clear) and Sly breaks free to run about town. Coincidentally they corner Sly at the very moment that he and Whit encounter each other for the first time and Whit is taken back to the lab by mistake. Uh oh! Once BabyCo realizes the mistake they know that their little Mengele-like twin experimentation will be discovered and come to an end, so they start to pack it up to jet off to Lichtenstein (this is really the plot). Acting quickly, Sly and Whit organize their baby troops, hypnotize some weak-minded adult helpers, and take down the whole enterprise, all the while spouting odd anachronistic adult-themed jokes delivered by ADR. This very well might be one of the worst films I’ve ever seen.
Who?! Twin film alert! Have to mark it for next year’s Smaddies Baddies. As for Planchets, I have to highlight Kyle Howard’s Dickie (self nicknamed Icepick). He is a teenager who is given a job at Whit’s parent’s daycare as a favor to his parents, given that he can’t hold down any other job (and doesn’t appear to want to). He spends the entire film dressed in bizarre costumes (including a gigantic hoop nose ring) trying to get fired. No dice, though, as he ends up playing a part in saving the babies… which I guess means he cares or something.
Where?! Very nicely takes place in Pasadena, where BabyCo is headquartered. Mentioned outright in the beginning and supported to the very end as the LAPD race to BabyCo HQ to save the day. The Bobbins’ place seems to be somewhere in the LA suburbs not too far away. Pretty solid C+.
When?! Xmas film, alert! When Sly escapes the lab he ends up making it to a mall, where he spends the night. It is very clearly decked out in Christmas decorations, with a mall Santa and everything. We also get a clear “Merry Christmas” from one of the mall security guards. Perfection. B+.
‘Ello everyone! Baby Geniuses? More like Sweet Baby Jesuses! Amirite? We watched a kid’s film literally starring babies. Totally our wheelhouse. Not the antithesis of everything BMT holds desr. What could go wrong … it isn’t like it could ruin my life, right? Right, obviously, baby geniuses didn’t ruin my life, that’s absurd, but it wasn’t very good. Let’s go!
- The Good – You’d be surprised by how okay the story actually is. It is silly, and it doesn’t make much sense, but if you squint and let it wash over you like a summer rain it isn’t the most unpleasant. My wife actually watched this movie a bit growing up and had fond memories of it. So credit where credit is due. This is probably up there with Master of Disguise now as BMT films where people I know were kind of flabbergasted that the movie was bad. Also, I don’t know how they get babies to act. At times I was just confounded as to how they got them to do certain things. It is incredible. The supporting acting appears bad, but they are also super committed and I kind of loved that.
- The Bad – Shoddily made. Number one. All the way down to a rented limousine having a tail light out. I would assume a feature film shoot wouldn’t be so tight on budget or schedule that they could request a not-broken limo to be sent, but not in Baby Geniuses. It looks like a movie made in 1993 but it was made in 1999. The finale was creepy enough I didn’t really know how children would watch it without becoming scared for life. Obviously it is really stupid and none of the jokes land.
- The BMT – Yes, but lower than it is and mainly just because the idea of the movie is really stupid (or at least transparently pandering to very young kids who they knew just wouldn’t care) and the movie shoddily made. But it is like a 50. You can imagine people liking this film. It is possible. Why does this sound like praise? Read my Superbabies Baby Geniuses 2 recap to find out! The legacy of this film will be that it is a great Twin Film, and part of probably the worst film franchise in history.
I’m going Sequel Prequel Remake here and going for a Prequel. I’m much more interested in Peter MacNicol’s character of Dan Bobbins than anyone else. Why is he special in that he can understand baby talk a bit? He suggests it is in the back of his mind, just out of reach. The prequel will explore the extraordinary events of his babyhood that lead to the incomplete crossing-over and residual retention of baby talk. LSD experiments by a young and radical Dr. Heeb related to MKUltra (although you’d have to accept that Heeb is much older (70’s or even 80’s) or MacNicol’s is much younger (30s) than the actors who played them in Baby Geniuses were at the time), drawing a connection between Kane and BabyCo in the process, a manipulation to draw Dan and Robin together to allow Heeb to continue his research through Dan. It’s got it all! Baby Geniuses: Origins, coming this fall to Netflix. Totally, definitely getting picked up by Netflix.