The Zeros

Look Who's Talking Now Is Unmatched in Its Sheer Pointlessness

With the announcement that the series will be rebooted, we look back at its last installment, an unnecessary, unwanted sequel that squeezes the life out of its limited premise.

by | July 16, 2019 | Comments

Behind the Zero

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
(Photo by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

John Travolta is as notorious for his bizarre and unfortunate choices in roles as he is famous for his performances in movies like Grease, Saturday Night Fever, and Urban Cowboy. He’s a perpetual comeback kid, if only because he always has dispiriting professional nadirs to come back from. That was certainly the case in 1994 when he joined an ambitious, offbeat ensemble crime comedy called Pulp Fiction, which came on the heels of 1993’s Look Who’s Talking Now, the disastrous second sequel to his 1989 comeback movie and, of course, a recipient of the infamous zero percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

By the time Look Who’s Talking Now died at the box office, the franchise had drifted far away from both the emotional core that initially made it culturally and emotionally resonant and the cutesy gimmick that helped make it a surprise box-office smash. A recently announced series reboot may be able to recapture some of that initial charm, but as the sequels demonstrated, there’s only so much you can do with the same idea.

Writer-director Amy Heckerling’s 1989 original was a rare hit romantic comedy rooted in middle-aged single motherhood. To make the film more palatable to a mass audience, the inner monologue of star Kirstie Alley‘s pre-verbal baby was voiced by a wisecracking Bruce Willis. The result was a surprise smash with a decidedly limited premise that nevertheless inspired a full trilogy of movies. Look Who’s Talking is not Lord of the Rings — it does not probe into any themes that would require an entire series of films to explore. It’s a minor miracle that it worked even a single time, but stretching it over three films is sadistic, to audiences and characters alike.

The Zero


Look Who’s Talking had a cheesy but cute and effective gimmick: who hasn’t wondered what babies are thinking in their pre-verbal state? Who hasn’t pondered what might be going on inside those adorable little heads? Look Who’s Talking Now, the first entry in the series not to be written and/or directed by Amy Heckerling (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Clueless), tries to do the same with pooches, but the novelty and freshness has been lost.

The film opens with parents James (Travolta) and Mollie (Alley) chasing after a now partly grown-up Mikey (David Gallagher) and his little sister Julie (Tabitha Lupien). They can both talk, unfortunately, so now the creatures whose inner monologues we hear are a little further down the food chain.

Danny DeVito steps sadly into the fray to voice scruffy, oversexed mutt Rocks, who earned his name by doing his business in the backseat on the way home. Don’t worry, though; there are lots of creepy, inappropriate sex jokes to go along with all the poop jokes.

Rocks is like the Tramp in Lady and the Tramp, in the sense that Look Who’s Talking Now baldly and badly steals from the Disney animated classic. Diane Keaton plays the aristocratic Lady to Rocks’ salt-of-the-earth Tramp as the voice of Daphne, a poodle given to the family by Samantha D’Bonne (Lysette Anthony), a 30-year-old ice queen and titan of industry who hires James to be her personal pilot as the first step in an elaborate plan to seduce him away from his family.

As for the children, Mikey is not only capable of speaking for himself, he looks like he should probably start thinking pretty seriously about college in the years ahead. The gimmick that initially defined the character and the franchise is long gone, leaving behind only another gratingly precocious moppet tormented by questions of Santa Claus’ authenticity.

TriStar courtesy Everett Collection
(Photo by TriStar courtesy Everett Collection)

In a bid to get him back into the Yuletide spirit, James, Mollie and sister Julie — the latter clad in a tutu and angel wings — lip-sync their way through Alvin & The Chipmunks’ “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late),” that exemplar of Eisenhower-era uber-kitsch. The performance is supposed to be so adorable that Mikey’s skepticism and disillusionment are rendered powerless before its heartwarming power. Instead, it’s a moment of David Lynchian horror, a close cousin to the sequence in Blue Velvet when Dean Stockwell lip-syncs to “In Dreams,” but infinitely more disturbing due to context.

It’s almost impressive that the makers of Look Who’s Talking Now managed to create a family movie about dogs and children that isn’t cute in the least, but rather unintentionally disturbing . Little Julie, for example, has an obsession with basketball players — specifically Charles Barkley — that is supposed to pay off in a fantasy sequence in which this tiny, self-conscious girl challenges the NBA legend to a game of one-on-one, taunting him with “Let’s get busy!”

Barkley’s bewildering cameo here at least ensures that Space Jam is not the single worst film he’s ever been a part of.

Later, Julie decides that she can fly like Peter Pan, so she climbs up a series of shelves and prepares to dive onto the carpet before she’s scooped up by her alarmed mother. We’re meant to find it adorable that this precocious child misunderstands the adult world. Instead, she’s like a creepy ghost-girl from a J-Horror shocker, seemingly possessed by evil spirits in at least a couple of scenes. Look Who’s Talking Now may skip through genres randomly, but its many horrific elements are unintentional.

Rocks is like the character DeVito plays on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but less appealing or capable of self-restraint. He calls a female dog a “bitch,” responds to Daphne’s introduction with a Wayne’s World-style “shwing,” and, before he falls in love with Daphne, accuses her of being the product of inbreeding.

That might seem wildly inappropriate for what is ostensibly a family movie franchise rooted in the ability to hear an adorable little baby’s thoughts, but by this point, the series had somehow morphed into a bad-taste marital sex comedy primarily concerned with whether or not James will be able to successfully avoid sleeping with his manipulative, hot-to-trot ice queen of a boss.

TriStar courtesy Everett Collection
(Photo by TriStar courtesy Everett Collection)

Since there’s nothing kids enjoy more than sexual jealousy, they’ll particularly enjoy the many scenes of Mollie brooding about her husband violating the sanctity of marriage with a world-conquering dynamo who throws her own unemployed messiness into even sharper relief. Alley can make for a relatable, vulnerable, sympathetic heroine, or she can be a sloppy, blubbering, desperate mess. We get the latter here.

In another fantasy sequence, Mollie dreams about James cheating on her while he dreams about her cheating on him with a character played by a returning George Segal. Eventually they realize they’re in a dream together and that they have control over their actions, and we are briefly treated to a lovely little production number with Travolta and Alley gliding across the dance floor like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. It’s an example of what a world-class performer like Travolta can bring to even the dodgiest and most desperate of projects, but it also just made me wish that I was watching literally any other movie in which Travolta dances, including even Be Cool, another unnecessary, god-awful sequel that is nonetheless infinitely better than Look Who’s Talking Now, if only for Dwayne Johnson’s performance.

But it somehow gets even worse and less dignified for Travolta and company. For reasons known only to the filmmakers, Look Who’s Talking Now ends with a music video-style showcase for French baby rapper/one-hit wonder Jordy, who scored an international hit with 1992’s “Dur dur d’être bébé! (It’s Tough to Be a Baby)” when he was a mere four years old. Jordy was a grizzled has-been of five or six by the time the movie opened, but that didn’t stop the franchise from closing its ostensibly final chapter, fundamentally, with a product placement for a Christmas song by the pre-pubescent European pop star. Alley, Travolta, and the children from the film are all there for Jordy as he delivers lyrics like “Can you feel something in the air? A super nice feeling of holiness.”

Needless to say, “It’s Christmas, C’est Noel” failed to become a new holiday standard. But it’s an utterly bizarre and yet wholly appropriate way to end a singularly misguided sequel that deviated so far from what made the original successful that they barely seem to inhabit the same universe, let alone the same film series.

Final Verdict

TriStar courtesy Everett Collection
(Photo by TriStar courtesy Everett Collection)

Thanks largely to the mega-watt movie star charm of John Travolta , Look Who’s Talking Now is not completely worthless. But it is astonishingly misconceived, the concluding entry in a series that never should have been a trilogy. It’s so bad it reflects poorly on sequels as a whole — they are rightly disparaged for being frequently terrible, strained, and unnecessary, but in the entire undignified history of sequels, few can compete with Look Who’s Talking Now for sheer pointlessness.

Nathan Rabin is the author of six books and the proprietor of Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place.
Follow Nathan on Twitter: @NathanRabin

Like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get more features, news, and guides in your inbox every week.

Tag Cloud

24 frames anime ratings BBC romance toy story PBS historical drama children's TV Christmas FX Film Showtime VICE American Society of Cinematographers renewed TV shows natural history Box Office witnail USA blockbuster Action Reality Competition Trailer TCA 2017 RT History Anna Paquin green book Holidays Mary Poppins Returns dramedy spy thriller cancelled TV series TV CBS All Access Video Games series talk show diversity Best and Worst joker Thanksgiving 2018 miniseries Vudu directors Superheroes Kids & Family spain hist Syfy based on movie crossover batman crime thriller Sci-Fi game of thrones adventure Fox News Schedule Polls and Games Fall TV ESPN ABC Family animated Watching Series Comic Book slashers Hallmark Amazon Prime Video Drama The Witch teaser Binge Guide BET cinemax Lifetime Christmas movies 2017 HBO boxoffice Song of Ice and Fire Pixar unscripted Sony Pictures Arrowverse The Arrangement television Spring TV APB justice league Disney Tubi Opinion TBS Star Wars comiccon GIFs Pet Sematary Brie Larson rotten movies we love Comics on TV Lucasfilm Super Bowl adaptation Shondaland disaster Lionsgate CBS docudrama technology Red Carpet Set visit Mystery Fantasy CMT kids spinoff DC streaming service cats Nat Geo DGA zombie independent Tumblr sitcom spider-man Freeform SXSW Certified Fresh Disney+ Disney Plus 2020 MCU Marvel Elton John DC Universe Awards Tour cars Heroines facebook IFC Films sag awards Universal HBO Max MTV Western robots discovery WarnerMedia composers San Diego Comic-Con Creative Arts Emmys FXX crime drama Extras Rocketman SundanceTV New York Comic Con IFC Teen 71st Emmy Awards Disney Channel Food Network FOX Sneak Peek Musical Pride Month Bravo Crunchyroll Adult Swim mutant screen actors guild Writers Guild of America cancelled cops YouTube award winner Ovation dc GoT versus TCM Warner Bros. 007 Apple TV Plus science fiction Apple TV+ Stephen King breaking bad Pop Winter TV Captain marvel foreign politics Discovery Channel Calendar DirecTV TruTV canceled Apple stand-up comedy Cosplay Ellie Kemper Turner X-Men Marvel Television book MSNBC Ghostbusters YouTube Premium Hallmark Christmas movies Sundance Now dragons police drama ghosts Awards Acorn TV streaming E! Trophy Talk screenings Summer biography RT21 2016 Peacock Infographic Crackle VH1 Walt Disney Pictures Hulu hispanic Television Academy what to watch zero dark thirty NYCC BBC America OneApp canceled TV shows Chernobyl TCA Winter 2020 blaxploitation Interview Women's History Month 2019 latino Classic Film ITV Black Mirror space political drama Logo History TCA 45 Tarantino Marathons WGN Amazon Prime Tomatazos PaleyFest halloween Britbox TIFF Musicals Cannes period drama Academy Awards Starz Endgame psychological thriller Epix Trivia Election supernatural nature President First Look Lifetime Sundance TV Holiday GLAAD golden globes El Rey Year in Review TLC LGBTQ south america LGBT Baby Yoda transformers tv talk TNT Esquire Emmys See It Skip It Shudder DC Comics A&E crime dceu The Purge Winners Mudbound Superheroe Columbia Pictures cartoon doctor who Dark Horse Comics Turner Classic Movies Emmy Nominations binge elevated horror Paramount Spike YouTube Red Reality Mary poppins Pirates psycho TV renewals First Reviews Cartoon Network 2015 Premiere Dates Oscars cancelled TV shows Comedy cooking true crime war Music Grammys zombies Masterpiece Comedy Central Netflix harry potter TV Land Martial Arts travel Marvel Studios Family Mindy Kaling Valentine's Day Country movies thriller sequel quibi The Walking Dead Horror festivals comic Rocky Star Trek Toys game show Character Guide Nickelodeon reboot Disney Plus Netflix Christmas movies Film Festival USA Network Chilling Adventures of Sabrina serial killer CNN revenge Avengers Photos jamie lee curtis Sundance theme song Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Amazon National Geographic casting OWN vampires cults E3 YA mockumentary video strong female leads finale christmas movies richard e. Grant Rom-Com A24 Rock Spectrum Originals cancelled television free movies aliens AMC name the review Quiz Nominations 20th Century Fox NBC The CW sports Countdown medical drama anthology ABC Mary Tyler Moore werewolf singing competition romantic comedy spanish language social media Podcast indie Animation 21st Century Fox Paramount Network Biopics SDCC CW Seed comics Disney streaming service