Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Friday, July 29, 2016

WHY DO I OWN THIS?: Baby’s Day Out (1994)

A lot of people love him but I don’t get John Hughes. I actively dislike Ferris Bueller, am indifferent to “Pretty in Pink” and “Sweet Sixteen,” and barely tolerate “The Breakfast Club.” “Weird Science” is okay. Of course, even a Hughes hater like me knows “Home Alone” was actually the screenwriter’s biggest hit. In 1994, Hughes attempted to recreate that film’s massive success by skewing even younger. “Baby’s Day Out” brought the same level of brutalizing slapstick to the pre-K crowd. The film fell short of expectations and mostly endears as an in-joke among nineties nostalgists. So, I ask the question once again: Why do I own this?

Baby Bink, short for Bennington, is the infant child of a millionaire in New York City. While his dad works and his mom obsesses over status, Bink is actually cared for by a nanny. Bink’s mom hires a new photographer to take Baby Bink’s yearly photo, replacing the elderly family photographer. A trio of crooks poses as the photographers in order to kidnap the baby and hold him ransom. Bink, however, turns out to be harder to contain then expected. The baby leads the three men on a journey of hellish slapstick through Manhattan while Mom and Dad frantically search for him.

In “Home Alone,” John Hughes wrote a film about a ten year old torturing two grown men. And it made millions. “Baby’s Day Out” follows a very similar formula. Instead of a kid, it’s a baby. Instead of a home, it’s New York City. And instead of two incompetent crooks, it’s three. The slapstick comedy, meanwhile, is pushed into even more cartoonish and brutal directions. Joe Mantegna suffers abuse that should be fatal very early, falling between two buildings, landing crotch first on an air conditioner. The movie is obsessed with brutalizing the men’s crotch. An extend sequence is devoted to the baby grabbing, punching and burning Mantegna’s genitals. The other two crooks drop down buildings and land, balls first, on wooden or steel beams. They fall from skyscrapers, land in wet cement, and get hot glue pour on them. The longest gag is devoted to a gorilla – not Rick Baker’s most convincing suit – beating the men up in many exaggerated ways. As in “Home Alone,” such cartoony slapstick becomes practically disturbing in live action.

At least “Home Alone” had a winning cast. “Baby’s Day Out” could not lure in the likes of Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. Joe Mantegna’s Eddie is angry all the time. (And probably rightfully so, considering his balls are getting smashed throughout like 65% of the movie.) He’s a hateful schmuck with few other defining features. Brian Haley’s Veeko is the big dumb oaf of the group, which distinguishes him little from the others. At least his clueless utterances can occasionally be mildly amusing. Of the three, only Joe Pantoliano as Norby brings anything to the material. His song and dance number for the baby is sort of cute. It’s one of the movie’s better moments and occurs very early in the run time.

As in “Home Alone,” “Baby’s Day Out” ends with the mother learning to love and appreciate her child more deeply. Lara Flynn Boyle plays the aforementioned mom. Despite how ridiculous the rest of the movie is, the script plays Boyle’s despair over loosing her child weirdly straight. There’s an odd sequence where, after walking into an apartment with several kids, Boyle has a serious conversation with the mother. Dramatic moments like this are totally out of place. Slightly better are scenes devoted to how cute Bink is. Because the kid is adorable. After being reunited with mom and the nanny, he points the way to the crook’s lair. This leads to the funniest joke in the movie, when future senator Fred Thompson talking about tick-ticks and booboos.

Why Do I Own This?:  “Baby’s Day Out” is ninety-nine far too long minutes of painfully unfunny gags. The film does not grasp the sincerity it reaches for. The actors can not rise above the material. So why do I own this? I actually have a very specific reasoning. I rented the film a few times as an easily amused child. When I was moving into a new place a while back, I went shopping with my mom. We wandered into a video store. We went home with a bunch of DVDs, some picked by me, some picked by her. She picked this one, saying it was “such a sweet movie.” I couldn’t bring myself to tell her I wasn’t interested in owning it. And I haven’t been able to bring myself to sell it either. Hopefully, stinkers like this don’t bring down the overall quality of my entire film collection. [3/10]

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