The kiddie-movie juggernaut rolls on. First there was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, then Problem Child and the breakaway smash Home Alone. Now, elbowing their way into this month’s pack of big-gun releases is the film brandishing the mightiest kid-pic credentials of the year: Look Who’s Talking Too, a sequel to last year’s wisecracking-baby hit.
The awesome success of today’s kiddie flicks is easily explainable in terms of demographics: A generation of baby boomers now have children of their own, and they don’t just want movies to take their kids to; they want movies about kids. Yet the trend is also part of something larger, a generalized return-to-childhood fever that began to grip our culture in the mid-’70s. That’s when Steven Spielberg and George Lucas started transforming American movies into a kind of blissed-out cinematic amusement park, a place where you could go not just to be moved or entertained but, specifically, to become a child again. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a little healthy regression. But what’s dismaying about so many of today’s kiddie-movie blockbusters is the evident degree of calculation that has gone into them. The one quality you’d want and expect to find in a movie about children — innocence — is often in short supply.
Look Who’s Talking Too reunites John Travolta and Kirstie Alley as affectionately mismatched lovers — they’re married now — caring for a smart-aleck infant who speaks to us in voice-over. Once again, Bruce Willis supplies the one-liners for Mikey, who’s now a curly-haired toddler. Willis is joined by Roseanne Barr as Mikey’s baby sister and In Living Color’s Damon Wayans (in a role originally intended for Richard Pryor) as Mikey’s cocky pal.
The first Look Who’s Talking was an enjoyable surprise — not just because of Willis’ gimme-a-break line readings but because of its witty, low-down view of the messiness of child-rearing. The sequel isn’t as funny. Willis’ comments seem less absurd coming from a 3-year-old, and Barr’s role isn’t bratty enough. Still, the movie has its moments, especially when Mikey confronts the considerable anxieties of toilet training. What’s more, Travolta and Alley continue to bring out the best in each other. Their marital spats are just believable enough to give the movie some heart.
My guess is that Look Who’s Talking Too is not going to generate quite the mega-hit business their producers are counting on. Then again, in an era when movies about babies regularly outgross movies about adults, anything is possible. B-