Since Babies was released in theaters this past weekend, I have seen a bunch of commercials that liken the film to March of the Penguins. I don’t remember March of the Penguins that well, but I recall it having some penguins, some Morgan Freeman, a little bit of a plot, and French connections. The makers of Babies also hail from France. There is no Morgan Freeman in Babies, unfortunately. Morgan would have been great but it also would have been unnecessary as Babies is already great!
Babies follows the lives of four newborns from different parts of the world. It would be wrong to say that the film tells any sort of traditional tale, though. Thematically and visually, everything is coherent. However, the movie does not seek to weave the scenes into a typical a narrative or comparison. Occasionally, moments in the film lead viewers to compare and contrast (such as the different communal approaches to raising the children or the practice of breastfeeding) the babies’ lives, but these comparisons do not really point to any point or agenda of the filmmakers. So, what you get is seventy-nine minutes of babies ( B-) ).
The trailer give s a good indication of what you are going to get in the movie. The settings and times change, but the scenes always focus on the babies. There is not much language in Babies. None of the dialogue from parents, other adults, or siblings is ever subtitled. Towards the end of the film, spoiler warning, some of the children began to talk. The movie doesn’t dwell on their words.
Going into Babies, you should be aware that you are going to get seventy-nine minutes of babies. That is it, essentially. There are also nice wide shots of the areas in which the babies live, but the babies are the main draw. Looking at the Metacritic for Babies, I was surprised by the mixed reviews. For example, Kyle Smith of the New York Post writes “Even I realize that other people’s babies are boring. So is Babies.” Wow. Ouch to the babies and the Babies, sir. Other reviews compare Babies to YouTube videos, soothing loops, and home movies (However, for every New York Post review, there is a first draft of Dan Kois’s review). Critically, it is easy to pick apart the movie but I don’t think that Babies is a movie that wants to achieve cinematic perfection. It wants to focus on babies, duh.
So! Let’s talk about the babies of Babies!
This is Ponijao! Ponijao lives in Namibia! She is a baby!
There is a lot of Ponijao with her family and community. Sometimes, she plays with rocks. More times, she enjoys a nice meal. Every once and a while she spends time with the family dog. She is the first baby seen in the trailer (of the two, she is on the right). She practices balancing things. Ponijao is very cute.
This is Bayar! Bayar lives in Mongolia! He is a baby!
I found Bayar to be the most fascinating of the babies. His home in Mongolia seems pretty remote, so he has to make his own fun. He lives with his mother, father, and older brother. Bayar’s home is also surrounded by a bunch of animals. He is the only boy baby the film watches. He is a smooth operator. Case in point.
No sweat for Bayar. Classic reaction to an animal drinking your bath!
This is Mari! Mari lives in Japan! She is a baby!
Mari does lots of cute things through the movie but she also has some dramatic skills. During some block play time, she deals with the confusion and pain of a wooden dowel sliding through the other blocks. Mari also does her own stunts.
Mari’s family lives in a busy area of Tokyo. There are lots of people there. Her city never sleeps. The city is her nightlight! I hope she still gets adequate rest.
This is Hattie! Hattie lives in America! She is a baby!
Initially, I had some problems with Hattie. She sort of had an attitude. Big personality. I don’t know if she was trying to out-baby Babies or what, but she and I got off on the wrong foot. Then, thirty seconds later she started doing cute things and I bought my Team Hattie t-shirt.
At one point, Hattie has a scary slide ride! She falls off the ride, but (good spoiler warning) she is okay. Good for Hattie!
Hattie lives in San Francisco which is also the home of Tommy Wiseau. I hope that Hattie and Tommy Wiseau hang out. One day, Hattie will thank Tommy for paying her college tuition.
For all the talk about Avatar‘s technology ushering in a new age of cinema, I think people underrate the impact of Babies. Movies that are uplifting and cute and pretty looking will always have a place in the cinema! Also, you don’t need fancy cameras to make them.
Maybe you will like Babies. Maybe you will not. I hope you do. It is nice to smile for seventy-nine minutes. Well, not all of seventy-nine minutes. There are other minutes where you just have to say “Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.”