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Friday, June 25, 2010


You know, in a year that’s looking like one of the worst summer movie seasons in recent memory it might seem easy for a documentary about babies to outshine an A-Team. But the beauty about Babies (and humor) lies in its humanity. The most innocent kind of humanity too! Babies isn’t necessarily about a bunch of infants growing up differently, but rather an example of their similarities immediately after birth.

The vague story of this documentary follows four infants: Ponijao from Namibia, Bayar from Mongolia, Mari from Japan, and Hattie from the United States. From there they learn to crawl, mumble, walk and speak, all while being utterly entranced by fresh, new life.

For a lot of the film, Babies turns out to be more of a crowd pleaser than an insightful journey. The humor surrounding these kids as they decide to gnaw on everything, piss where they please and stare obsessively is truly outrageous. But what gets me is how similar they all are. It begs the question: Is this a movie about babies growing up in different cultures or a film showing how irrelevant cultural preference is in the wake of new life.

To exemplify the similarities of these infants, they all have access to animals and treat them with as little reverence as possible. Panijao tugs on the upper lip of a dog, while Bayar steps on a lamb. They’re curious about these animals’ physical structure and they feel they must learn about them by touching-- Despite how uncomfortable the animals get. There is no boundary for these babies in any culture. They study by doing and they have yet to get to a place where they can be fully assimilated in to their respective societies. To me, this is what makes the film so fascinating.

The film rams home that the purist form of human innocence is the untainted and curious baby. If this sounds hysterical, don’t worry, it’s suppose to be. Mari’s parents may be worried about their job, but she’s more concerned about getting a long, cylinder block through a hole. (Something I’m sure her father would prefer her to learn later in life.) But the failure to understand why these toys won’t stay together upsets her so much that she throws her feet to the floor in a fit of rage. Her day is clearly ruined. The result is both hilarious and engaging. Hilarious because from our point of view the situation means nothing; engaging because this is really what is important to her. It’s how she learns and she feels she’s failed.

But I won’t recommend this to the masses. This is a movie with babies being babies for an hour and twenty minutes with no narration. Nothing Youtube can’t give us, right? But while the film admittedly seems less interested in providing a new perspective and more interested in making the crowd go, “Awww…” I’m pretty sure there’s enough insightful material to spark intelligent discussions. And if you don’t feel the same way, at least we can agree that babies will be babies—And honestly, how damn funny is that?

*** out of ****

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