Baby's Day Out

1994, PG, 99 min. Directed by Patrick Read Johnson. Starring Joe Mantegna, Lara Flynn Boyle, Joe Pantoliano, Brian Haley, Cynthia Nixon, Adam Worton, Jacob Worton.

REVIEWED By Hollis Chacona, Fri., July 1, 1994

Take The Ransom of Red Chief, Raising Arizona, and the Three Stooges and what do you get? A lot more entertainment than you get in Baby's Day Out, which borrows brazenly from all three. These days, when you think of a John Hughes movie, you can think “formula” in all its permutations -- recipe (for making money), blueprint (script), pabulum for infants (or the infantile). I shudder to think how many Home Alones or its derivatives this man is capable of producing (though, there is the fact that Macaulay Culkin is aging and unlikely to be left alone again, at least, not accidentally). To be sure, one thing to recommend Baby's Day Out is that Culkin is not in it. That and the fact that Joe Mantegna is -- though I can't imagine why -- really big gambling debts, maybe? Mantegna's pinky-ringed thug, Eddie Mauser, and his two histrionic henchmen (Pantoliano and Haley), pose as high-society baby photographers, invade the Cotwell mansion to kidnap Baby Bink -- a nine-month-old, Nineties-style Fauntleroy -- and then spend the next several hours trying frantically and ineffectually to keep up with the miniature Houdini as he crawls, climbs, and slides his way through Chicago. The Worton twins' cherry-cheeked Bink is engaging, and director Johnson is quite adept at capturing the toddler's innocently catastrophic sense of adventure on film. I admit to laughing out loud at parts of this movie. It's just that a day later, I can't remember what it was that made me laugh. What stays with me instead are the ruthlessly repetitive sight gags -- the skull-clashing, dreck-dripping, pratfalling bad guys -- thinly (anorexically!) reworked from the Home Alones. That the gags in this picture are the inadvertent results of Baby Bink's joyfully fearless exploration of the big city is temporarily amusing as well as less offensive than counterpart Kevin's deliberate human damage, but it cannot compensate for the movie's aimless sentimentality and shameless lack of originality. On the ride home from Baby's Day Out, my seven-year-old chattered on, not about her favorite scenes in the movie, but about her favorite activity at camp earlier that day, a departure from a post-movie routine that you can take as a big, by way of being small, thumbs down.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Baby's Day Out, Patrick Read Johnson, Joe Mantegna, Lara Flynn Boyle, Joe Pantoliano, Brian Haley, Cynthia Nixon, Adam Worton, Jacob Worton

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