Baby got back – Babies review

Babies – Directed by Thomas Balmès. Rated G. By Simon Miraudo.

Well, they certainly weren’t lying when they called this movie Babies. It is all babies, all the time. On a scale of one to a hundred (one featuring no babies at all, and a hundred featuring all the babies in all of existence) this film could still only be classified as ‘babies’. I’m not going to lie to you: if you don’t like babies, there is not going to be much in this movie for you. Director Thomas Balmès (executing a concept by producer Alain Chabat) follows four babies from four very different regions across the world – Namibia, Mongolia, Japan and the United States. We spend eighty un-narrated minutes with four babies, from birth to their first Bday party. That’s it: uninterrupted babies. I suspect that much in the way the Justin Bieber flick is probably best experienced by pre-existing Beliebers, Babies should be exclusively reserved for all the baby-aficionados out there. But that might be an insult to the rather good Never Say Never, which offers a far more interesting insight into the tweenage pop culture phenomenon than Babies does into babies.

There are a few intriguing moments, particularly when Balmès directly contrasts the existence of the quartet of babies. Needless to say, the way one baby lives in Namibia – happily left to its own devices in the dirt – is going to be different to the way the babies live in Japan and United States. One fun sequence juxtaposes Japanese bub Mari surrounded by toys, wailing with existential anguish over something known only to babies’ brains. Meanwhile, over in Mongolia, one of the babies – Bayarjargal – gleefully plays with some toilet paper, as if it were the hottest toy on the market. Sure, it’s hardly incisive commentary, but it’s one of the few moments in Babies that feels like it actually has a point, and isn’t just a collection of cute YouTube clips strung-together specifically for clucky moviegoers.

That’s not to say that Babies isn’t an audacious project. The filmmakers trust their gorgeous footage of babies enough to present them with minimal flourishes, and hope non-baby-crazy audience members can still take away something of meaning. I respect that, babies. But come on babies, we’re not talking about Godfrey Reggio’s epic, history-of-the-universe condensed to a music video Koyaanisqatsi here; we’re talking about Babies, a film that strives for “cuteness” rather than any real kind of commentary. I don’t want to sound like a baby-hater (the babies here are indeed cute, so mission accomplished, I guess) but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect something more from a documentary ostensibly about the greatest and truest miracle in the history of existence: babies.

Babies, in general, are adorable, and the babies in the movie Babies are no different. But Balmès respects babies more than his audience. Babies babies its audience by assuming they’ll be pacified by footage of smiling, bouncing babies. I was personally overwhelmed by the non-stop footage of babies, and found myself crying out for just a little something more; something a little less babies. Babies babies babies babies babies babies babies babies babies babies babies babies babies babies babies babies babies babies babies babies babies babies babies babies babies babies babies babies babies babies babies babies babies babies babies babies babies babies babies babies babies.

Babies / Babies (or rather, 2/5)

Check out Simon’s other reviews here. 

Babies arrives in Australian cinemas May 5, 2011.

2 Responses to “Baby got back – Babies review”

  1. I was lucky enough to see a preview screening of Babies… and I’ll repeat what I’ve said elsewhere – if I wasn’t already pregnant I would have spontaneously ovulated.

    It IS baby overload, and at first I felt a bit like I was watching private home movies, but those exquisite little creatures sucked me right in, and now I’d quite like to take them all home.

    Maybe it’s *because* I’m pregnant that I enjoyed the movie, or perhaps it was my mental comparisons with the way I’m raising my own children, and the realisation that it really doesn’t matter whether one follows the latest theories on rearing the next generation to be as switched on as physically and mentally possible, or whether one follows instinct and practices low-interference parenting – the important stages of development are met just the same.
    Please tell me you cracked a grin as Bayarjargal took his first triumphant steps!

  2. I have been looking out for this doco for ages. I don’t just want it for the baby element (although, as I am due to have baby #6 today obviously the baby element does draw me in somewhat!) but also for the anthropological element and to look at from a child development/culture point of view. I can see how the lack of commentary would frustrate some but it is something I see as an asset to the film if you are looking at examining what goes on without the views of a commentator being shoved in your face every few minutes. I am looking forward to it!

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