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2 reviews, 1 rating

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by Peter Sobczynski

"Beware--The "Babies" Is Here!"
1 stars

By an amazing coincidence, this weekend sees the release of two highly hyped films that involve people screaming, crying, drooling, excreting and crawling around the floor for nearly 90 minutes non-stop--one is the super-disgusting horror film “The Human Centipede” and the other is the super-adorable documentary “Babies.” Neither one is worth seeing but if you find yourself in the admittedly unlikely situation where they turn out to be your only entertainment options for the weekend and you must choose between the two, I would have to suggest that you go with “The Human Centipede” because while that film is as vile, gross and repellent as anything that you will ever see in this or any other lifetime, it could be argued that it contains some trace elements of point and purpose to explain its existence, if not justify it. “Babies,” on the other hand, is a work that is so vapid and shallow that even the most devoutly Catholic viewers will find themselves agreeing that it never comes close to become a viable film.

The premise of “Babies” is so absurdly simple as to be borderline absurd--director Thomas Balmes and producer Alain Chabat have selected four babies from around the world and follows them over a period of roughly two years from the moment that they make their debuts into the world to the point where they are on the cusp of successfully mastering the skills of walking, talking and interacting with parents, pets and older siblings. Two of the children--Ponijao and Bayarjagal--come from poorer parts of the world (Namibia and Mongolia) and are born into families with multiple children being raised seemingly single-handedly by their mothers while the other two--Mari and Hattie--come from rich and industrialized cities (Tokyo and San Francisco) and are the first children of highly attentive and prosperous two-parent families who lavish them with attention, yoga classes and complicated educational toys as a way of helping them get ahead in the world even at a time when they are still regularly soiling themselves. Over the course of the next 77 minutes, the film intercuts between the four children as they grow and develop and when it gets to the point where they begin to form their own individual personalities, Balmes and Chabat no longer have any interest and the film quickly and mercifully concludes. Alas, those of you hoping that the kids would band together to form a crime-fighting unit dedicated to stopping future parents for allowing strangers to take the formative years of their children and put them on display for the world to see, or at least do battle with Jon Voight, will no doubt come away disappointed. Then again, I suppose there is always the sequel.

While I am perfectly willing to admit that the idea of watching a film that is essentially an extended YouTube compilation of footage of the babies of complete strangers prattling about, there are ways in which the film could have been made interesting. It could have explored the irony of how the babies born into relative poverty and often left to entertain themselves seem to be remarkably mellow and well-adjusted under the circumstances while the ones who want for nothing and are constantly being showered with attention and stimulation eventually begin to rebel against their surroundings--Mari pitches a mega-fit when she can’t figure out how to get a plaything to work properly and Hattie goes so far as to hit her mother in the face at one point. It could have spent a little more time with its subject once their individual personalities began to take hold. Hell, it could have done something, which is far more than Balmes and Chabat have done here--they do nothing more than present their random footage without any narration, a discernible point of view or any adornment other than an unbearably soporific score designed to make the proceedings even more aggressively cutesy than they already are. Hell, even the penguins in “March of the Penguins” inspired more interest from the makers of that film than the babies here get. Some of you might point out that the documentaries “Koyannasqatsi” and “Baraka” did similar things without resorting to using narration at any point. That may be true but the difference is that those two masterpieces--both of which you should see right this instance if you haven’t already--were made by filmmakers who were able to put together films that compared and contrasted differing cultures and made the thematic points that they had in mind going in through their respective skills as filmmakers. By comparison, this haphazardly-assembled work has no driving principle behind it--it is basically the cinematic equivalent of the kind of greeting card that you would never actually buy for anyone that you actually respected and its message, for lack of a better term, is no more profound or creative than “Awwww. . .aren’t babies cute?”

Babies may be indeed be cute but “Babies” certainly isn’t--this is the kind of treacly tedium that offers up roughly the same intellectual and entertainment value as being trapped on the “It’s A Small World” ride at Disneyworld and the only thing worse than the film itself is the avalanche of rip-offs that will begin popping up if it hits as big with audiences as some observers think it will. I will no doubt get plenty of hate mail from people who can’t fathom how I could possibly say such nasty things about a film featuring nothing but adorable babies doing their thing. As I have already explained how I could do such a thing in the previous paragraphs, all I can do is say that if this film sounds like your cup of tea, feel free to ignore everything I have written and I hope that you have an enjoyable experience. As for the rest of you, I will be sure to save you a seat at “The Human Centipede.”

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=19998&reviewer=389
originally posted: 05/07/10 01:00:00
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  07-May-2010 (PG)
  DVD: 28-Sep-2010

  N/A (U)

  07-May-2010 (G)
  DVD: 28-Sep-2010

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Directed by
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