Look Who’s Talking (1989) Directed by Amy Heckerling. With Kirstie Alley, John Travolta, Olympia Dukasis and Bruce Willis.
There’s a lot about Look Who’s Talking that’s just plain lazy. It’s staggering today, to think it outperformed Back to the Future Part II at the domestic box office in 1989, but then, never underestimate the public capacity to be easily sold on a cheap concept, frilled up with a few star names. Written and directed by Amy Heckerling (no heckling!) the film is well known as an internal monologue comedy about the thought process of babies, but it’s also a thin rom-com in which single mom, Kirstie Alley (a big name at the time thanks to TV’s Cheers) meets cab driver, John Travolta. So far, so ho-hum.
When a plot is as telegraphed as this, the jokes need to have a big impact to survive the monotony of making the viewer play join-the-dots, but aside from a few smirks, Heckerling’s script relies on cute and winsome, above sharp and smart, which leaves a lot of empty space for the audience to become bored – space they fill with pop songs and Manhattan.
The notion of knowing exactly what the baby is thinking is a highly attractive one, and one ripe for great comedy – see Seth McFarlane’s Family Guy, which is built heavily around that very idea. Bruce Willis supplies the voice of baby Mikey, which is, ultimately, the main draw of the piece, and while that’s occasionally lowbrow amusing, there’s also a sense that it’s trying hard to charm us into cutesy, sentimental submission…something Hollywood does not do easily. Stewie Griffin this is most definitely not.
Travolta and Alley give it a good go, with upbeat performances and a clear enthusiasm for the work, but Look Who’s Talking is sloppy, utterly predictable and not nearly funny enough. With a global box office haul of almost $300m, it wouldn’t be a stretch to rename it Look Who’s Laughing (All The Way to the Bank), or in my case, Look Who’s Not Laughing. 2/5