Baby Geniuses is a 1999 American family-oriented comedy film directed by Bob Clark. It stars Kathleen Turner and Christopher Lloyd.
The film has the distinction of being the first full-length feature film to use computer-generated imagery for the synthesis of human visual speech. 2D warping techniques were used to digitally animate the mouth viseme shapes of the babies which were originally shot with their mouths closed. The viseme shapes were sampled from syllables uttered by the babies on the set.
Two scientists, Dr. Elena Kinder (Kathleen Turner) and Dr. Heep (Christopher Lloyd) use genius-baby studies to fund BabyCo's theme park "Joyworld". According to Dr. Kinder's research on toddlers/babies, babies are born possessing vast, universal knowledge and speak a secret yet impossible-to-translate baby pre-language called Babytalk. However, at age 2–3, the knowledge and language are lost as the babies cross over by learning how to speak human languages. Most of the babies raised in Dr. Kinder's underground research facility were adopted from the Pasadena City orphanage, transformed into little geniuses through use of the Kinder Method, and then used in experiments to decipher this secret yet impossible-to-translate language used by the 7 baby-geniuses.
One mischievous toddler, Sylvester (the only one of her toddlers who was raised through use of the superior version of the Kinder Method), makes repeated attempts to escape Dr. Kinder's research facility and one night, Sylvester goes into a dirty diaper truck and he actually succeeds. The next morning, one thing Sylvester does not expect is to run into his long lost normal twin brother, Whit, in a mall playground. Although Sylvester and Whit share a telepathic bond, they have no idea of each other's existence. While the guards from Dr. Kinder's research facility capture Whit, mistaking him for Sylvester, and take him back to Dr. Kinder's research facility, Sylvester is taken home by Whit's adopted mother, Robin (Kim Cattrall), who is Dr. Kinder's niece. After Dr. Kinder and the six other baby-geniuses are shocked that Whit and Sylvester switched places at the mall, Dr. Kinder decides to do a cross evaluation on Sylvester and Whit. However, when she comes to the home of Robin's husband, Dan Bobbin (Peter MacNicol), where she realizes that Dan can understand babies. After the attempts to retrieve Sylvester fail, Dr. Kinder decides to move the research facility to Liechtenstein, and they have no chance but make Whit be the only normal baby to be raised in this research facility until they can find a possible way to get Sylvester back to her research facility.
The babies at Bobbin's place hypnotize Lenny (Dom DeLuise), the bus driver to drive to Dr. Kinder's research facility. Once at the research facility, Sylvester goes to the control room to set the robots from the theme park on the lab scientists. When the Bobbins return home, their natural daughter Carrie tells her father that the children are in Dr. Kinder's research facility. At the end of the fight, Dr. Kinder captures Whit and takes him to the helicopter pad on the roof. Robin and Dan chase them to the roof, where Dr. Kinder reveals that she and Robin are not related and that Robin was adopted at age two. After Dr. Kinder is arrested by the police, Sylvester and Whit come together on the roof to cross over.
Dan and Robin adopt Sylvester. And Dr. Heep is now in charge of Dr. Kinder's Research facility. Dan is still curious of the secrets of life; but, as the twins have crossed over, they no longer know those secrets. Carrie, their sister, doesn't reveal anything (just giving a sly smile) because adults aren't meant to know their secrets.
Why It Sucks
- The premise is unbelievably stupid; the babies are born with super intelligence and then lose it as they get older.
- The babies in this film act more like adults than actual babies, which is more disturbing than funny.
- Terrible CGI effects. The mouths moving on the babies are very similar to a technology used in the 1950s TV show TTSW, often criticised for looking creepy.
- Awkward acting, particularly from Christopher Lloyd and Kathleen Turner.
- It overuses wide-angle lenses (especially in the opening).
- Unfunny and repetitive humor, with overuse of gross out humor.
- Nightmarish animatronics, especially on the baby and clown mascots.
- The phrase "diaper gravy" is used four times in a short time frame, which is extremely annoying.
- Christopher Lloyd looks like he had plastic surgery done to his face to look younger.
- Inappropriate and unfunny dialogue in a family film. For example: in one scene, Sylvester says "ass", when Robin lies to the police dispatcher about a bomb being set at at BabyCo. before the climactic showdown between Dr. Kinder and the babies, when Sly asks a baby girl to take her clothes off and she tells him that he could take her out to dinner first and when Carrie asks Sly about having time going to the potty and Sly answers back to her with "You're wearing the potty! Put it on hold, this is much more important."
- Product placement, such as the PlayStation (which is owned by Sony, the company that also owns TriStar Pictures, which distributed this film).
The Only Redeeming Quality
- The ending song is very nice. The same cannot be said of any of the later films.
Baby Geniuses currently holds a score of 2% on Rotten Tomatoes with an average rating of 1.9 out of 10 and a critic consensus that reads "Flat direction and actors who look embarrassed to be onscreen make Baby Geniuses worse than the premise suggests." On Metacritic, it holds a 6/100 meaning "overwhelming dislike". Roger Ebert awarded the film a 1.5 out of 4 stars and stated "Bad films are easy to make, but a film as unpleasant as Baby Geniuses achieves a kind of grandeur." and deemed it as his worst film of 1999 on The Worst of 1999 show with guest critic Joel Siegel of Good Morning America. While Roger deemed Baby Geniuses as his worst film of that year, Joel deemed Pokemon The First Movie as his worst film of 1999. On IMDb, the film has a 2.5 out of 10.
Baby Geniuses opened up at #5 on its opening weekend and grossed $5,613,587 in the U.S. It later grossed $27,250,736 domestically. Overall, it made $36,450,736 worldwide against its $12 million budget.
Awards and nominations
Baby Geniuses was nominated for five Stinkers Bad Movie Awards including Worst Picture, but lost the Worst Picture Award to Wild Wild West. It won one for Bob Clark as "Worst Sense of Direction."
- Roger Ebert didn't review the film on his show when it was theatrically released, but he did review it on his Worst of 1999 show. When the film came out, he instead reviewed The Deep End of the Ocean, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Cruel Intentions and Analyze This with guest critic Elvis Mitchell.
- The Nostalgia Critic put the film at #7 on his Worst Movies list.