1992, PG-13, 70 min. Directed by Bruce Smith. Voices by Faison Love, Nell Carter, Myra J., Tone Loc, Wayne Collins, Jonell Green, Marques Houston, Vanessa Bell Calloway.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Aug. 28, 1992
Bebe's Kids are the spawn of comedian Robin Harris' fertile imagination. They're miscreant little monsters who are always misbehaving or mouthing off. They're the trouble you never saw coming, a concept more than a reality. They're Dan Quayle's nightmare of single motherhood: brazen, unsupervised hellions whose motto is “We don't die, we multiply.” Bebe's Kids, the movie, is an animated musical cartoon inspired by the characters created by Harris in his stand-up monologues. Executive-produced by Reginald and Warrington Hudlin, it was originally planned as a live action film starring Harris as a follow-up to his screen success in the Hudlins' House Party , Mo' Better Blues and as Sweet Dick Willie in Do the Right Thing. But Harris died of a heart attack at the untimely age of 35 during the early phases of this film's development. Solution? Harris' friend, Reginald Hudlin, wrote a script based on the comedian's fictional characters and turned the whole thing into an animated musical comedy. And, given these obstacles, the whole thing works better than you might expect. The humor remains true to its source and contains material that will appeal to both young and old alike. The animation is simple and adequate, nothing too snazzy or cutting edge but certainly entertaining and serviceable enough. It starts off promisingly as Robin hopes to score points on his first date with the lovely Jamika by taking her and her son Leon to an amusement park. When he arrives to pick them up, he finds Jamika in the company of three additional children, Bebe's kids, the uncontrollable brood of Jamika's absent best friend. They torture poor Robin and the well-mannered Leon and, before the afternoon is over, reduce the entire grounds of Fun World to rubble. It's here that the story runs adrift. The kids run amok, are chased by secret service-like park goons and by the time there's a courtroom trial with Richard Nixon and Abraham Lincoln acting as the prosecution and defense, you've lost whatever tenuous threads this story holds. In between all this there's some lackluster rap tunes and the movie closes with some heavy-handed tugs on the heartstrings. Are these children natural disasters or victims of circumstance? This movie conveniently presents them as both. Ultimately they may prove Dan Quayle's points about fatherless children growing up without “strong family values.”