Opens Fri., May 7
We get it. They’re cute.
Thomas Balmès’ pseudo- documentary will never be accused of false advertising. Lacking narrative, dialogue or really anything that a reasonable person might expect when plunking down 10 bucks to see a movie, Babies is just a lot of shots of babies acting like … babies.
They coo, they warble, sometimes they cry. End of plot synopsis.
Spending a year or so following four tots from Mongolia, Namibia, Tokyo and San Francisco, the movie just shows kids doing what they do. I guess the multiple locations are meant to hint at some sort of universal truth, like perhaps that cultural and geographic differences don’t matter all that much when you’re a barely sentient newborn. This rainbow coalition of cute kids behave fairly identically. They’re all adorable until they get hungry or have to go to the bathroom. They’re also kind of boring.
See, there’s the rub. If you happen to personally know the kid, or even the parents, then children can provide untold wonders of fascinating minutiae as they go about their uneventful day-to-day activities. When my nephew first arrived, we’d all just stare at him for hours on end in such rapt fascination that my sister coined the phrase, “Watching Brandon TV.” Spending time with a baby you know is a moment-to-moment journey of miraculous discovery.
But when it’s a stranger, who gives a shit?
There’s nothing duller than watching somebody else’s home videos, even if you enjoy their company. Babies ups the ante considerably, by including a Bay Area couple who’s pretty much impossible to like. Mom’s strutting around all the time topless for no discernable reason. (The MPAA granted his film a PG “for maternal nudity,” which I think must be a first in the history of the ratings board.) Their kid seems to be the only one with any common sense, frantically crawling away and pounding at the exit door during a baby yoga class, where everybody’s singing a dippy song about how the Earth is their real mother. Sadly, that’s as close to conflict as we ever get.
This isn’t a movie. It’s a screensaver.