The fact that they changed the title from Baby
to this much clumsier signature should have been a warning, but given the talent involved with this film, especially director Norton, (whose last effort, More American Graffiti
is a personal favorite), I was really rooting for it, really wanting to like it. Unfortunately, no go. One of the things I often wonder about is whether, upon seeing some of my favorite childhood movies as an adult, I would be able to perceive even a bit of the magic, the mystery, the cinematic spirituality that so enthralled me as a child. This kind of thinking inevitably leads me to be kind to movies I would probably otherwise dismiss, (Sheena
, Swamp Thing
). I mean, they are stupid movies, but what would my 12-year-old self, lost in and addicted to fantasy and easy mythology, have thought of them? Baby
might deserve this type of redemption because of the mostly fine animation/depiction of the dinosaurs; they seem to be living creatures rather than models and/or actors in suits. But in this story of a young couple battling an evil scientist for a brontosaurus discovered in an African jungle, that just isn't enough. The plot is simplistic, ill-thought out, and pathetically obvious. The evil scientist is bad because he is bad; both he and the heroic couple want to take the creature back to civilization (at least at first), only they are good and he is bad. There is no depth, no motivation, no explanation. The film is silly, it telegraphs its punches, it neither generates nor maintains suspense or dramatic flow. But the ultimate blow against this lightweight bit of fluff is that it all too gleefully indulges in the type of casual, third-world racism we see in far too many Hollywood movies. If getting the dinosaurs means that a number of blacks have to die, so what? If burning down a native village is a way of creating a diversion, do it. Natives are either cute and friendly, like pets, or dangerous, deadly, and stupid, like thugs. Even if your children like dinosaurs, don't let them be exposed to the offensive, insensitive, intolerably anti-humanist and racist propagandizing that is draped around them in this film. No plot, no heart, no soul. Oh damn, B.W.L. Norton, I'm in pain.