Baby's Day Out
The kids in the theater seats behind me, rattling their popcorn and kicking my chair, especially loved the part in Baby’s Day Out where 9-month-old Baby Bink (twins Adam Robert Worton and Jacob Joseph Worton), unaware of being pursued by a trio of bumbling kidnappers, crawls into the revolving door of Chicago’s Marshall Field’s department store. He sits up on his padded, Osh-Koshed bottom and smiles a winning baby smile. A store customer (who doesn’t notice the small blond visitor) pushes the door, thereby propelling the child, who is scootched onto the selling floor with a gentle glide and a nicely dubbed gurgle. Hahahahaha! went the delighted kids behind me, followed by gargling sounds produced with soda straws. Awwwwww! went the charmed adults.
Children-as-charmers are the deeply profitable specialty of John Hughes — he of the Home Alone oeuvre — but kids keep growing and eventually they’re not such cute movie subjects any more and then Hughes has to break in a whole new cast of rookies. His canny solution in this close Home Alone relative (written and produced by Hughes and directed by Patrick Read Johnson), Baby Bink is so tiny, so speechless, and so safe in his bubble of Movie Baby Innocence that Hughes won’t have to worry about the Worton twins wisemouthing up for a good two or three sequels (I foresee Toddler’s Day Out, Kindergartner’s Day Out, Second-Grader’s Day Out, etc.).
Bink is indeed a cutie — a sweet-natured, enterprising, wealthy gurgler whose favorite book (called, you see, Baby’s Day Out) is about the adventures of a baby in the big city. As he watches wide-eyed from the window of his kidnappers’ cluttered hideaway, the streets below remind him of scenes from his book and he crawls out the window to explore for real, making his way safely (in a computer-animation-assisted way) onto buses, into taxicabs, under moving trucks, into a gorilla cage in the zoo, and onto fearsomely dangling girders on a busy construction site. The building segment is a particularly nice touch: Hughes, like all parents, knows that videos of bulldozing, road construction, and other activities involving heavy machinery are selling like mad to young goggle-eyed home viewers these days.
Hollywood’s crown chronicler of childhood ingenuity might, however, want to freshen up the goofily violent bad-guy angle he pretty much pushed to the limit in the Home Alone series. Bink’s abductors’ misadventures are lesser variations on ways to inflict hurt or get hurt previously demonstrated by Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci, although this time it takes three hardy dum-dums to take on one diapered target. And this time, Joe Mantegna is the brains of the operation. The only reason I can possibly imagine that one of our most compelling and versatile actors (Searching for Bobby Fischer, Broadway’s Glengarry Glen Ross) would turn in such a game but silly performance and consent to be dumped into a vat of garbage and lit in the crotch by a cigarette lighter is because he sees Home Alone-type big bucks in the payoff.
Which reminds me: Hughes is strangely obsessed here with the comic possibilities inherent in the vulnerable male crotch, ha ha, and great yuks are elicited when Mantegna’s dim henchmen put out the fire in his pants with well-aimed stomps. I mention this as a heads-up to dads whose kids think anything in a John Hughes movie is pretty damn cool and worth trying out at home. Ha ha. C+