The Zeros

Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 Is a Slow Descent Into Madness

This unnecessary abomination was shepherded into existence by the man who gave us the holiday classic A Christmas Story.

by | August 15, 2018 | Comments

Behind the Zero

Triumph Releasing

(Photo by Triumph Releasing courtesy Everett Collection)

Let’s face it: The fact that a movie with the title and premise of 1999’s Baby Geniuses even got made in the first place reflects poorly not just on the film industry but on humanity as a whole. The fact that it was successful enough to spawn a whole slew of sequels, though, is even more damning. Finally, the fact that Academy Award-winner Jon Voight was involved in every single one of those sequels — even the direct-to-video ones — playing different characters, certainly says something about him and the kinds of roles he’s apparently up for these days.

You might imagine that Baby Geniuses, abysmal and desperate as it was, set the bar so prohibitively low that it would be impossible for a sequel to shimmy under it. You would be wrong. 2004’s Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 scored a perfectly terrible Zero here at Rotten Tomatoes and, as of this writing, it has been voted the second worst film of all time by the users of Internet Movie Database. That’s bad. Real bad. It’s very close to being the absolute worst.

Superbabies is the final feature film of Bob Clark, who kickstarted the modern teen sex comedy with his semi-autobiographical surprise 1981 hit Porky’s. But he also boasts a fascinating, if violently uneven, filmography that includes nadirs like the Gene Hackman/Dan Aykroyd Multiple Personality Disorder-themed buddy-cop comedy Loose Cannons, the influential cult classic slasher Black Christmas, and most impressively and surprisingly, the Yuletide perennial A Christmas Story.

Yes, Baby Geniuses and Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 were shepherded into existence by the man who co-wrote and directed one of the greatest, most insightful and beloved movies about children ever made.

Some children’s movies are so gimmicky and pandering that they accidentally border on avant-garde and surreal. That’s Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2. It’s less a conventional kiddie sequel than a Nazi-saturated, wildly inappropriate waking nightmare that singlehandedly set CGI back decades and brought out the incompetent amateur in a veteran filmmaker. Superbabies won’t entertain children or adults, but it will make you feel like you’re gradually sliding further and further into madness.


The Zero

Triumph Releasing

(Photo by Triumph Releasing courtesy Everett Collection)

Superbabies focuses on Kahuna, an age-defying toddler who, with the help of the titular Superbabies, must thwart an evil plan engineered by his excessively German brother Kane (played as an adult by Jon Voight) to brainwash the children of the world with subliminal messages on his inane children’s TV channel. Said Superbabies are a culturally diverse assortment of glib archetypes that includes Finkelman the neurotic Jew (Jared and Jordan Scheideman), tomboy Haley (Maia and Keana Bastidas), and token African-American Alex (Joshua and Maxwell Lockhart), who communicates largely in outdated slang.

While the baby geniuses are all played by identical twins, Kahuna himself is played by triplets (Gerry, Leo and Myles Fitzgerald), voiced by still another actor (David Kaye), and realized onscreen much of the time by what are obviously little people stuntmen and body doubles in blonde wigs and Osh Kosh B’Gosh. So there’s a very good reason the main performance feels incoherent and unfocused. To paraphrase the old aphorism, it takes a village to raise — or in this case, portray — a child.

Kahuna is first invoked here as a creature of pure myth, a fabled “superbaby” capable of speaking to both adults and the titular heroes, who appear to be regular, baby-talking tots to grownups around them but are actually ultra-intelligent prodigies whose secret communications we’re privy to. This means that their lip movements deliberately do not match the words we’re hearing. Then again, that’s true of many of the adults in the film as well.

While still a boy in the 1940s, Kahuna drank a potion his scientist father invented that stopped the aging process and gave him magical powers. So while others came of age and fell in love and started families, Kahuna retained the image and attitude of a sassy Dennis the Menace type deep into his golden years. Eternal youth is a gift, to be sure, but also a curse whose sinister connotations the movie never addresses or explores, and the more you think about Kahuna’s life, the sadder and creepier it becomes.

If he genuinely were the small child he appears to be, then it would presumably be amusing for him to spout canned one-liners like “I’m your worst nightmare: a small fry with a big attitude!” or “Hey Prissy pants, don’t wet yourself!” But when you consider that Kahuna is really a senior citizen whose father — and, presumably, many of his friends and loved ones — is long dead, and whose brother is a lunatic who wants to destroy him, then he seems less like a hero for the ages than an emotionally stunted sad sack living in a bittersweet world of eternal childhood.

Triumph Releasing courtesy Everett Collection

(Photo by Triumph Releasing courtesy Everett Collection)

Oh, and those magical powers? One of them is the ability to walk on walls and ceilings, but in action, it’s actually rather nightmarish, more Linda Blair in The Exorcist or the baby in Trainspotting than a miniature version of Superman. He’s also supposedly able to use the power of imagination to transform other babies into superheroes, but even that comes across half-baked. Late in the film, the Superbabies do engage in distractingly unconvincing super heroics for roughly two or three minutes as their alter egos Brain Boy, Cupid Girl, Bouncing Boy, and Baby Courageous. Unfortunately, it’s not just too little, too late; it’s less than nothing at the last possible moment.

Kahuna’s lair is presented as a kiddie version of the Batcave mixed with the Pee-Wee’s Playhouse set for whimsy, but it looks instead like the Phantom of the Opera’s subterranean home redesigned by Liberace using the shoddiest of cardboard. It’s meant to be Kahuna’s Neverland, a techno paradise where kids can live out their wildest dreams and only need to believe in themselves and their boundless potential, but it’s a poor imitation, more Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch on its saddest and most sinister day.

SuperBabies: Baby Geniuses 2 is so violently divorced from reality that watching it feels like suffering a psychotic break; forget cognitive dissonance or suspension of disbelief. More than once, one of the film’s diaper-wearing thespians will violate one of the core rules of film and look directly into the camera’s lens in a way that only adds to the sense that the world as we know it is deteriorating into pure insanity.

That shouldn’t surprise anyone, though. The actors playing the Superbabies perform with the craft, nuance, and sophistication you might expect from performers who still regularly soil themselves. Then again, so does Jon Voight, and I would like to think he’s at least potty-trained by this point. Judging from the film, though, it’s unclear whether these bottle-drinking Oliviers even understood what a movie was, let alone the fact that they were in one.

Superbabies also has an astonishing amount of kid-unfriendly darkness. Early in the film, for example, we learn that Voight’s Bill Biscane/Kane imprisoned children in secret camps throughout East Germany in 1962 before Kahuna liberated them and freed the babies. In a bold if perhaps misguided acting choice, Voight decided to base his sneering bad guy on Nazi butcher Dr. Josef Mengele. But even if his character didn’t rock a modified Hitler mustache and goose-step everywhere in a Teutonic fury, it’d still be difficult to watch scenes of children being sent to camps in East Germany and not think about Schindler’s List rather than something like The Goonies.

Like far too many glaringly unnecessary sequels, Superbabies concludes by teasing yet another sequel, which not only happened, but led to two more equally unnecessary follow-ups. The world is a stupid and frequently terrible place, and this sequel to a movie that never should have been made in the first place illustrates why.


Final Verdict

Triumph Releasing courtesy Everett Collection

(Photo by Triumph Releasing courtesy Everett Collection)

Bob Clark died tragically in 2007 from a fatal car accident, his final two projects being this and the 2005 television movie The Karate Dog, which also, perhaps unsurprisingly, featured Jon Voight. The Baby Geniuses franchise, however, outlived the auteur who first breathed life into it. Superbabies was followed nearly a decade later by 2013’s Baby Geniuses and the Mystery of the Crown Jewels, 2014’s Baby Geniuses and the Treasures of Egypt, and most recently, 2016’s Baby Geniuses and the Space Baby.

Yes, the Baby Geniuses folks are really testing the notion that small children will watch anything. For a franchise built around the cloying, cutesy conceit of precocious genius, Superbabies is astonishingly, almost impressively stupid, an abomination that fully lives up to its reputation as the worst of the worst.


Nathan Rabin is a freelance writer, columnist, the first head writer of The A.V. Club and the author of four books, most recently Weird Al: The Book (with “Weird Al” Yankovic) and You Don’t Know Me But You Don’t Like Me. Follow Nathan on Twitter: @NathanRabin

Tag Cloud

National Geographic Sci-Fi space obituary Oscars Country SundanceTV YouTube Premium Infographic Fox News The Witch USA Shondaland Writers Guild of America The Arrangement Photos FOX finale Endgame spider-verse all-time Holidays new star wars movies venice Funimation Disney stoner godzilla NYCC screen actors guild emmy awards live event NBA Set visit legend fresh MGM new york anime TCA lord of the rings BBC America anthology documentary target crossover james bond japan Fantasy E3 FXX Watching Series Song of Ice and Fire CMT Nat Geo book technology Mary Tyler Moore rotten scene in color film series Marvel Studios BBC Elton John australia black CW Seed target scene in color independent Cannes quibi El Rey indiana jones transformers TIFF sequel stand-up comedy science fiction popular scary movies The Academy Lucasfilm docudrama archives award winner Brie Larson spy thriller PaleyFest Discovery Channel breaking bad natural history spinoff CNN Mary Poppins Returns psychological thriller Film HFPA scene in color social media vampires Star Trek Paramount Pictures Wes Anderson composers comiccon Epix japanese WarnerMedia medical drama ABC crime drama foreign CBS BBC One Fargo worst movies LGBTQ Academy Awards strong female leads blockbusters rom-coms halloween Cosplay leaderboard travel IFC Premiere Dates Paramount Best Actor international Rock PBS Sony Pictures Ovation MSNBC basketball Arrowverse reboot black comedy name the review posters football tv talk 2021 reviews festivals jamie lee curtis casting Animation Tokyo Olympics Columbia Pictures Best and Worst robots scary Emmy Nominations hist TCM animated AMC Plus live action video on demand documentaries VH1 Extras Best Picture dc ratings know your critic free movies History Adult Swim dark OneApp art house Amazon Prime Dark Horse Comics Reality Competition cults Apple Sneak Peek king kong dexter superhero rt archives Certified Fresh slashers TV movies hollywood satire dceu San Diego Comic-Con Chernobyl adaptation Warner Bros. pirates of the caribbean Britbox Image Comics cartoon crime thriller 20th Century Fox sag awards saw Mudbound doctor who Turner Classic Movies Year in Review 2015 suspense spanish mockumentary Best Actress Kids & Family Ellie Kemper Calendar Hollywood Foreign Press Association ABC Signature political drama interviews cancelled TV shows Pirates debate Christmas Broadway Starz Reality biography Women's History Month canceled parents Logo ViacomCBS Polls and Games Tubi hispanic heritage month Amazon Prime Video sitcom television versus Superheroes Turner Captain marvel supernatural dragons high school FX 1990s miniseries Universal Emmys heist movie HBO Tumblr biopic Musicals Drama royal family movies Western Lifetime Christmas movies comedies The CW Netflix Christmas movies X-Men Opinion Musical die hard zombie TBS APB psycho Film Festival Comedy Central Hear Us Out universal monsters MCU summer preview YouTube period drama razzies nbcuniversal critics comics Character Guide new zealand Trophy Talk Vudu YA Masterpiece cancelled TV series adenture spanish language Pop justice league Baby Yoda Mindy Kaling Awards Tour festival Pride Month TCA 2017 Trailer police drama Food Network Quiz witnail trophy Teen DC Comics rt labs politics Focus Features mutant zombies VICE The Purge TLC golden globe awards Stephen King Walt Disney Pictures 79th Golden Globes Awards Comedy Podcast Grammys LGBT TV Land scene in color series batman olympics Tomatazos Mary poppins crime Rocky Comic-Con@Home 2021 cars kaiju rotten movies we love Indigenous concert BET Awards wonder woman Freeform Valentine's Day rt labs critics edition Crunchyroll harry potter scorecard cancelled genre HBO Max Nickelodeon dreamworks Geeked Week slasher Holiday werewolf Family Toys A&E HBO Go GoT screenings romance cinemax See It Skip It vs. Sundance TV facebook NBC ghosts Action Amazon mission: impossible OWN obi wan ABC Family Television Critics Association Star Wars Celebration Shudder superman Pixar Peacock ITV Trivia Video Games DGA halloween tv Pop TV aapi Alien FX on Hulu unscripted Summer dramedy Sundance Instagram Live TV renewals based on movie 45 Interview sports cops Heroines christmas movies Showtime Chilling Adventures of Sabrina remakes cancelled television book adaptation nature Native Anna Paquin Countdown IFC Films south america Disney Plus cats Hulu critic resources elevated horror Star Wars spider-man Classic Film italian aliens fast and furious USA Network Cartoon Network king arthur 73rd Emmy Awards chucky summer TV preview Tarantino comic book movies blaxploitation GIFs trailers Travel Channel hispanic telelvision Apple TV+ kids Disney Channel Tags: Comedy joker GLAAD Horror worst asian-american Bravo Netflix South by Southwest Film Festival Awards Black History Month spain Crackle cooking green book SXSW 2022 First Reviews comic mcc boxoffice binge TCA Awards Comic Book Box Office prank marvel comics 72 Emmy Awards CBS All Access zero dark thirty teaser Creative Arts Emmys Lifetime twilight Disney streaming service Red Carpet Prime Video Spring TV comic book movie feel good child's play criterion women 21st Century Fox Thanksgiving 94th Oscars Television Academy Avengers gangster A24 Amazon Studios streamig comic books Paramount Plus ID marvel cinematic universe Spectrum Originals RT History Schedule jurassic park YouTube Red theme song 2016 Paramount Network toronto golden globes directors laika Election Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt BET President mob serial killer Hallmark Christmas movies TCA Winter 2020 Nominations 93rd Oscars Pacific Islander DirecTV Apple TV Plus french series TruTV WGN Universal Pictures Fall TV Esquire 2018 game of thrones boxing Marvel Neflix Pet Sematary docuseries American Society of Cinematographers TNT kong 4/20 latino war SDCC Rocketman Fox Searchlight Oscar 007 news Hallmark TV Spike stop motion Ghostbusters AMC indie broadcast streaming DC streaming service VOD ESPN sequels diversity blockbuster talk show 2017 historical drama richard e. Grant Sony action-comedy Music films BAFTA canceled TV shows sopranos revenge renewed TV shows disaster best TV One 2020 Sundance Now Marathons Acorn TV young adult video DC Universe The Walt Disney Company 71st Emmy Awards game show Mystery toy story New York Comic Con franchise IMDb TV hidden camera RT21 streaming movies movie a nightmare on elm street Rom-Com SXSW Superheroe Marvel Television 99% monster movies true crime Disney+ Disney Plus Biopics deadpool Winners 90s Super Bowl summer TV Black Mirror thriller First Look singing competition Best Director 2019 Binge Guide Syfy Winter TV Lionsgate what to watch classics Legendary children's TV The Walking Dead nfl Exclusive Video E! Martial Arts adventure PlayStation 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards discovery 24 frames MTV dogs Comics on TV romantic comedy