What's the big deal about babies? I'm not especially fond of other people's babies and there's nothing more torturous than baby home movies. Seriously, what's so special about babies? Who gives a rat's ass unless they're your own? I don't get it.
The new documentary Babies cashes in on the cute and, hopefully, shared fact that we are all enchanted by life's beginning and how awesome it is to be born while surrounded by a bunch of shit we can't comprehend. Clearly I was assigned this movie as a cruel joke, but nothing prepared me for how truly bad this flick would be.
Director Thomas Balmès might have had a good idea originally, capturing the captivating moments of early life from around the world. However, it quickly morphs into nonsensical juxtapositions of baby footage. Done in a non-traditional style, there's no narration, just images with more gurgling and cooing than dialogue. If it came with commentary like a History Channel or a decent National Geographic doc with some educational info, there might have been something here. But as it stands, Babies feels like all the favorite snapshots of four different babies with no real links to the similarities or vast cultural differences between them.
We are introduced to four babies: Hattie (San Francisco), Mari (Japan), Bayarjargal (Mongolia) and Ponijao (Namibia). I kept saying to myself, "Hey, is that Mongolia in the background? I can't tell because there's a big freakin' BABY in the way!" Mainly, we see all four babies getting washed, crying, peeing, grinning and crawling. But mostly they just stare blankly into space, accompanied by peppy, incoherent music. Hands down, the star was the African child, Ponijao, whose eyes featured a degree of awareness far superior to most adults.
Even beyond the subject matter, this was a poorly made documentary. When a scene got somewhat close to interesting (which was close to never) it abruptly cut to another scene of over-the-top boring cuteness. The handpicked, random cute stuff included, but was not limited to, belly sucking, tit squirting, fountain-like peeing and baby yoga. Babies didn't resemble a celebration of life, but rather a home movie that I felt the need to excuse myself from. If I weren't on assignment, I would've gotten up and kept running.
One of the best parts was watching some of the disgusting food different people eat, from pans of goat guts to something that resembled an ice cream meat cone dipped in water. The most engaging scenes involved pets, YouTube-like scenes of three babies playing with kitties and Ponijao with his pet flies. Babies really went downhill when they learned how to make noise. The mass crying provided ample time for me to squirm and wish I were on another planet. The crawling phase passed and then the babies stood, giving me hope that the torment was over. But nope, the goo-goo speak and home movie footage continued. The credits even included an epilogue of them "today," which was hardly shocking because they're still babies.
If you're expecting a baby, once had a baby, or if you have a baby right now, you might like Babies. But if you can't stand, don't frighten easily, or are immune to the charms of babies, you will not like Babies. For me, it was by far the longest 79 minutes of my life.
With the combination of a concept so poorly delivered, the subject matter so redundant, and the movie so tediously crafted, Babies was my version of a horror movie. After returning home and viewing Dawn of the Dead and Saw, I slept like a baby, but Babies was designed to give me nightmares.
Directed by Thomas Balmés.