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

war aapi Fox Searchlight Awards video parents E3 TV The Purge cartoon Amazon Studios Black History Month Hallmark Christmas movies indiana jones Music Film Festival universal monsters Box Office cults See It Skip It National Geographic TV Land Pirates true crime pirates of the caribbean christmas movies Disney streaming service FOX Crunchyroll scorecard Watching Series vampires Lionsgate Biopics The Walking Dead indie docuseries game show The CW psychological thriller archives women werewolf Bravo mockumentary YouTube Red rotten New York Comic Con international YouTube sports razzies theme song zero dark thirty sequel Grammys crime drama Trivia Amazon Prime TCA 2017 all-time IFC Films BBC America DC Comics teaser tv talk stop motion Valentine's Day dogs Academy Awards Year in Review children's TV Hear Us Out cancelled television CBS Sneak Peek serial killer movies Lifetime Christmas movies President Country Writers Guild of America RT History PBS aliens LGBT Star Wars Spike game of thrones superhero HBO Go Disney Plus child's play documentary Pacific Islander Image Comics Thanksgiving hist 99% Marvel Television jurassic park technology Mary Tyler Moore VICE sitcom Spring TV First Reviews 4/20 Chilling Adventures of Sabrina classics godzilla Anna Paquin Superheroes doctor who CMT book fast and furious football Lifetime USA The Arrangement Comics on TV worst movies 2018 miniseries MTV Tomatazos Captain marvel Premiere Dates casting disaster Ovation facebook foreign new york blaxploitation Walt Disney Pictures festivals TLC Red Carpet The Witch Superheroe ratings Funimation GoT Paramount Network best YouTube Premium Paramount NBC kaiju elevated horror Rom-Com A&E comic BBC quibi Pixar Family thriller boxoffice Pet Sematary Disney Channel canceled Fantasy The Academy Women's History Month Drama Tubi Rocky Mudbound CW Seed unscripted strong female leads sag awards live action king kong Christmas Sundance Now Star Trek Sci-Fi blockbuster Television Academy superman Photos cars Binge Guide screenings scary movies Best and Worst docudrama spain dceu BAFTA A24 Song of Ice and Fire GIFs name the review The Walt Disney Company FX on Hulu Fall TV robots Opinion IFC El Rey golden globe awards Holiday ID Turner crime thriller DC Universe Exclusive Video dramedy TCM Classic Film popular Heroines know your critic ITV nature Dark Horse Comics 007 E! Holidays DC streaming service hispanic adaptation telelvision Syfy Legendary reviews spider-man stand-up comedy series toronto festival SundanceTV History cancelled TV series Infographic Food Network Nominations Arrowverse Mystery 2019 cooking Esquire Sundance Mary poppins Film new star wars movies Epix deadpool OWN NYCC Oscars Marvel American Society of Cinematographers talk show Polls and Games independent kong space justice league Awards Tour AMC venice Calendar versus Ghostbusters BET TruTV Marvel Studios joker black Alien 20th Century Fox Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt police drama comics die hard high school science fiction 2017 Video Games revenge VOD DirecTV TCA Winter 2020 Hulu jamie lee curtis Cartoon Network TV One TCA Awards Paramount Plus halloween tv dark FX 71st Emmy Awards toy story Apple APB Brie Larson Amazon Prime Video romantic comedy Rock ABC Signature transformers Sundance TV Netflix Reality Competition Teen directors Vudu Broadway Kids & Family latino Endgame politics binge cinemax harry potter Martial Arts heist movie WarnerMedia CNN comic books australia Animation Lucasfilm TV renewals Pride Month Toys Columbia Pictures travel Cosplay PaleyFest dc Apple TV Plus Warner Bros. period drama social media comiccon Comedy Hallmark 24 frames PlayStation hollywood BET Awards Starz biography Television Critics Association 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards First Look rom-coms hidden camera comedies Avengers Comedy Central concert RT21 Summer Britbox natural history psycho laika Travel Channel spy thriller french ABC Showtime book adaptation San Diego Comic-Con finale Horror monster movies Tumblr Quiz Countdown saw green book ViacomCBS Pop TV Mindy Kaling GLAAD spanish breaking bad Creative Arts Emmys discovery Mary Poppins Returns Extras based on movie television TNT target franchise 2021 free movies supernatural Netflix Christmas movies Trophy Talk richard e. Grant news cancelled TV shows Spectrum Originals Trailer Musical emmy awards singing competition Interview Ellie Kemper cops Schedule satire ABC Family slashers Election Logo lord of the rings DGA trailers romance documentaries Podcast Stephen King golden globes Universal MCU obituary 2015 kids 21st Century Fox Adult Swim Elton John asian-american zombie dragons movie blockbusters 45 composers what to watch Winter TV Fox News prank Sony Pictures Super Bowl remakes crossover spinoff HBO ghosts 2020 Shondaland twilight USA Network scene in color Marathons SXSW 2016 adventure LGBTQ Comic Book Disney criterion anime medical drama fresh animated Musicals 72 Emmy Awards Set visit MSNBC critics CBS All Access anthology BBC One reboot james bond cats Baby Yoda Nickelodeon a nightmare on elm street Acorn TV X-Men renewed TV shows Tarantino YA canceled TV shows Masterpiece films nfl Western Cannes SDCC nbcuniversal historical drama award winner Nat Geo mutant rt archives Amazon Apple TV+ chucky 93rd Oscars FXX rotten movies we love Shudder WGN stoner VH1 HBO Max Freeform Reality Action diversity south america Disney+ Disney Plus TBS Character Guide cancelled Emmy Nominations boxing Winners halloween italian Rocketman batman video on demand crime new zealand ESPN Discovery Channel Black Mirror OneApp zombies mission: impossible Emmys Pop TCA spanish language Certified Fresh streaming Peacock Crackle witnail japanese marvel cinematic universe worst political drama sequels screen actors guild TIFF Turner Classic Movies Chernobyl