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 the use of the Kinder Method, and then used in experiments to decipher this secret yet the impossible-to-translate language used by the 7 baby-geniuses.
One mischievous toddler, Sylvester (the only one of her toddlers who was raised through the 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 Robin's husband, Dan Bobbin (Peter MacNicol), 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 to 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 about 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 This Film Is Not a Genius
- The premise is unbelievably stupid; the babies are born with super intelligence and then lose it as they get older, which is rather confusing as it isn't explained that what will happen to their intelligence when they're older and will they remember it when they are older children, teenagers or fully grown adults, which creates a massive plot hole throughout the film about the concept and makes the film's plot very hard to follow and extremely confusing at best.
- The babies in this film act more like adults than actual babies, which is more disturbing than funny as they feel less cute and begin to feel more like cartoon characters rather than real life 2 year old infants.
- In fact, the babies look more like 3 year old toddlers rather than actual babies themselves and have the ability to walk just perfectly fine, which contradicts the main title of the film and even the plot of the entire film which is centred around babies obviously.
- Terrible CGI effects. The mouths moving on the babies are very similar to a technology used in the 1950s TV show Clutch Cargo, often criticized 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, mainly with the overuse of gross-out humor and slapstick gags that later become rather repetitive and monotonous when they are repeated throughout the film.
- The phrase "diaper gravy" is used four times in a short time frame, which is extremely annoying.
- Nightmarish animatronics, especially on the baby and clown mascots.
- The baby mascot's voice is also very demonic-sounding, which makes him even scarier.
- Christopher Lloyd looks like he had plastic surgery done to his face to look younger, which looks very awkward and creepy at best for a man his age at the time as he was 60 years old when this movie came out and had gotten rather elderly throughout the years.
- 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 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) and also Sylvester playing a game of Crash Bandicoot on it which is only in the film as a shameless promotion for the then-upcoming spin-off Crash Team Racing which came out 5 months after this film and since Sony were the publishers of that game, it makes the film come across as nothing but a product rather than an actual film itself
- Unimpressive direction from Bob Clark, who directed A Christmas Story which is considered an all time classic by many fans alike and is praised as one of the greatest Christmas movies of all time.
- Poor visual style, as the film looks overall very bleak and bland, as the Color palette is very poorly toned and way too dark, and a lot of the scenery looks pretty uninspired with simple locations like a city or a day care center with babies, which have already been seen in several other films before it.
- Sylvester is a rather unlikeable and annoying character that tries way too hard to act edgy and cool but completely fails due to his awful Bart Simpson-like attitude and failed attempts at trying to be a relatable character for the audience, and also that he acts like a rather rude jerk at times too.
- The film insults it's own target audience and treats them like mindless and braindead children, as it tries to be hip and cool with the 90s kids and shoves several 90s clichés and tropes that are extremely dated by today's standards and even still felt like that when it was first released back in 1999, and on top of that note, it also tries to pander towards the trends back in the 1990s in a very bad way and overall makes the film feel cheap and outdated at best even by 90s standards.
- Bizarre poster, which features Sylvester holding two chemical bottles in front of his nipples and shows him smiling in front while wearing glasses on his eyes, which he doesn't even wear in the film, and the way how Sylvester is shown in the poster is rather inappropriate for a poster of a kids movie considering that Sylvester is only 2 years old which can be considered child molestation by a few people.
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 2.7 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, making it a moderate box office success.
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.