If anyone was clamoring for a follow-up to 1999's Baby Geniuses
, they'll be happy to know that the sequel retains not only the same gimmicky premise as the original but its preference for cliche-ridden dialogue and flat-footed comedy as well. In this U.S.-German-U.K. co-production, once again CGI and impressive baby wrangling give us diapered heroes who speak to one another in complete sentences reflecting keen intelligence. And once again the less-than-compelling story line is a flimsy excuse for the toddlers' banter.
Director Bob Clark has corralled a bunch of flavorless, stiff performances in the service of this cause. The exceptions are the cute-but-not-cutesy kids and a dummkopf turn from Jon Voight
-- stepping into the role of villain after exec-producing the first film (a negligible difference, some might argue). Anyone who derives side-splitting merriment from the sight of little kids spouting action-film jargon or using the word "elucidation" should run, not walk, to their local multiplex -- not least because it's unlikely that Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2
will be in theaters long.
Leo, Myles and Gerry Fitzgerald, the triplets who starred in the earlier film, return as legendary superhero Kahuna, a perennial 7-year-old who defends children in distress. Back in 1962 East Berlin, at a state orphanage, he crossed paths with the evil Capt. Kane (Voight), whose goal was world domination. Redubbed Bill Biscane, the Teuton surfaces in the present day as -- what else? -- a media mogul.
Using mind-altering satellite signals, the goofily power-mad Biscane aims to rule the planet through his gargantuan children's television network. It takes a baby genius to see that the venture is a front; the grown-ups are too busy being dim.
Of particular dimness is Stan Bobbins (Scott Baio
), proprietor of BobbinsWorld child-care center, which will serve as ground zero for Biscane Broadcasting. His wife, Jean (Vanessa Angel
), is convinced that the tots in their charge are not merely gurgling but communicating. Among them is their son, Archie (Michael and Max Iles
), who spends his days kibitzing with three other babies and trying to save BobbinsWorld from the no-goodniks -- while getting zero quality time with Mom and Dad.
Hot on Biscane's trail is the Kahuna, brandishing Bondian gizmos, chopsocky moves and a chartreuse energy drink that turns him into a mini-muscleman, a la Popeye's spinach. Babies and corporate thugs face off at the superkid's compound near the Hollywood sign. A sugar-hued phantasmagoria of holograms and glitter, the would-be kids' paradise comes across, in the film's flat lighting, as a cheesy set.
Voight makes the German-accented baddie far less cringe-inducing than one might expect. And whether intentional or not, the Fitzgerald triplets bring an appropriate melancholy to the role of the Kahuna. He bears the responsibility of saving the world's children and protecting his own heavy secret: A creepy Cold War back story reveals that he's an old man trapped in a child's body. Still, character and logic are beside the point in a film devoid of emotional content. It's all about the combination of adorable kids and visual f/x (by Dynamic Effects and Digital Energy).
There also are a few tacked-on, utterly unconvincing messages about family togetherness. And Gregory Poppen
's script strikes a trite anti-TV stance, equating the small screen with child-rotting junk. How this questionable franchise makes a case for the movies as a superior medium is anyone's guess.
SUPERBABIES: BABY GENIUSES 2
Sony Pictures Entertainment/Triumph Films
A Crystal Sky
World Wide Sales and Hador/ApolloMedia presentation
Director: Bob Clark
Screenwriter: Gregory Poppen
Producer: Steven Paul
Executive producer: Frank Hubner
Director of photography: Maher Maleh
Production designer: Deren P. Abram
Music: Helmut Zerlett
, Paul Zaza
Co-producers: Jan Fantl
, David Marlow
Costume designer: Tina Fiorda
Editor: Stan Cole
Visual effects supervisor: Jacques Stroweis
Bill Biscane: Jon Voight
Stan Bobbins: Scott Baio
Jean Bobbins: Vanessa Angel
Kylie: Skyler Shaye
Zack: Justin Chatwin
Crowe: Peter Wingfield
Kahuna: Leo, Myles and Gerry Fitzgerald
Archie: Michael and Max Iles
Finkleman: Jordan and Jared Scheideman
Rosita: Keana and Maia Bastidas
Alex: Joshua and Maxwell Lockhart
Tascha: Anastasia Trovato
MPAA rating: PG
Running time -- 88 minutes