May 6, 2010

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Babies (PG)
If the world population takes a spike in nine months, I think we can all blame Babies, a point-free documentary about four babies that is chockfull of adorableness.

Ponijao of Namibia, Bayar in Mongolia, Mari in Tokyo and Hattie in San Francisco wear iron-armored, weaponized suits and travel the world fighting evil…or maybe I’m getting my May 7 releases mixed up.

Babies is actually the exact opposite of Iron Man 2. That movie is all story and characters and special effects and people speaking words. Babies is just four babies being babies in front of a camera — no narration, very little dialogue. We met these four babies, competing fiercely for the title of Absolutely Cutest Baby Ever, shortly after their respective births in their various corners of the world. We see them in their newborn bread loaf stages, we see them pee and poo and gurgle. They interact with the babies and children around them. They put things — dirt, rocks, whatever — in their mouths. They learn to crawl. They weave like drunks on a bender as they learn to stand and eventually walk. They make those pre-verbal noises. They cry.

The Mongolian baby has an older brother, maybe about 2 or 3 years old, who seems fairly intent on getting rid of him — at one point we see him push the baby in a stroller into a field of cows (who are only mildly curious about his presence). The Japanese baby is adorably frustrated when she can’t figure out a specific toy and cries exactly the way we all want to when our computers crash. The baby from Namibia eats fistfuls of sandy dirt. The San Fran baby’s most memorable scene is when she seems to desperately want to leave a rather granola baby-music-enrichment class. (They are singing about Mother Earth and she is pulling on the door.)

Babies is like Oceans but without the annoying narration. The babies just are and we watch them. They are shot beautifully, like the full-color wonders on a Discovery nature documentary. Why are we watching the babies? The movie never really explains this — there is less point, per se, to Babies than to Oceans or March of the Penguins or any other of the life’s-rich-pageantry documentaries that have come out in the last decade or so. The babies are cute, so cute that even when you don’t want to buy into their cuteness and laugh you still find yourself thinking “awwww, babies.” B

Rated PG for cultural and maternal nudity throughout. Directed by Thomas Balmes, Babies is an hour and 19 minutes long and is distributed by Focus Features. It opens on Friday, May 7.