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MOVIE REVIEW : 'Look Who's Talking Too' Needs a Diaper Change

December 14, 1990|MICHAEL WILMINGTON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

As Marcel Proust once warned, the only thing we learn from our mistakes is that we're doomed to repeat them.

"Look Who's Talking," last year's talking-baby comedy hit, was not exactly a mistake. It pleased a lot of people, made a lot of money.

It had a refreshingly warm and wryly feminine point of view, from writer-director Amy Heckerling. It gave stars John Travolta and Kirstie Alley two amiably frantic romantic sitcom roles--the dancin' fool hunk cabbie and the workaholic unwed mother--they could handle with ease. It had an unforgettable credits gag: the race of the spermatozoa through the womb to the rocking strains of the Beach Boys' "I Get Around." And it brought out sides of Bruce Willis, as the voice of Baby Mikey that probably only his mother had been previously aware.

But making big movie sequels is often a mistake, of intelligence, artistry and humor if not of finance, and "Look Who's Talking Too" (citywide) leaps into most of them.

Like many predecessors, it's been pumped up. The anything-goes shagginess of "Look Who's Talking" is slicked up, even while the moviemakers try, laboriously, to hit most of the marks they got the first time around.

Instead of one star talking baby, supplying toddler stream of consciousness, we now have three star talking babies: Roseanne Barr as the voice of Baby Julie (replacing Joan Rivers from the last movie), Damon Wayans as the voice of Baby Eddie (replacing Richard Pryor, identified as a co-star in the video trailer) plus planes, fires and Mel Brooks as the apoplectic voice of the Toilet Man.

It doesn't bode well that Brooks, working from the toilet, gives the movie's best performance.

Deluging us with baby-voice stars and toddle-ons is only the first of the movie's excesses. So is the new tone supplied by Heckerling and husband Neal Israel. Rifling their brains for marriage humor, they stumble on the inspiration of having Alley's Mollie throw Travolta's James out of the house, after a thoroughly trivial argument, so the movie can go straight through Boy-Meets-Girl, Boy-Loses-Girl, Boy-Gets-Girl all over again.

So are the lewd machinations of Mollie's boy-crazy chum, Rona (Twink Caplan) and the recycled condescension of Olympia Dukakis as mom Rosa. So is new character Stuart (Elias Koteas), Mollie's scrounging macho brother, whose entire life seems to consist of bad parodies of Robert De Niro.

And so, unfortunately, is Roseanne Barr, whose flair for physical humor is wasted and whose bellicose, truculent voice as Baby Julie demolishes the right, light mood.

In "Look Who's Talking," Heckerling tapped into potent levels of wish-fulfillment that gave her movie tension. She had a ripe daydream notion: a 30ish working woman getting revenge on the executive cad who impregnated and dumped her by romancing a sweet working class dreamboat, as infatuated with her baby as he was with her.

There was also the double-edged message of Willis' streetwise Baby Mikey. Hipster Mikey's salty comments worked against the usual sugary, candy-floss imagery of infancy, suggested a kind of new-style, rocking-oldies, party-hearty parenthood. And I suspect that's what audiences liked best about "Look Who's Talking": the notion that parenting could be hip and a baby a buddy.

These fantasies, like the ones in "Ghost," "Pretty Woman" or "Home Alone" were ones that audiences were ready to buy, and you can sense that Heckerling had fun dreaming them up. But she's not as good a writer as she is a director and "Look Who's Talking Too" (PG-13, for language and sexual innuendo) has a strained, gotta-get-it-done quality. There's little fun behind it; there was no real reason to make it, beyond the obvious financial one.

Right from the opening credits, it's obvious the tot recycling has gone stale. When Heckerling shows those spermatozoa whipping through the womb again, this time to the more lugubrious strains of "Sea of Love," we can tell she's just going through the motions.

'Look Who's Talking Too'

John Travolta James

Kirstie Alley Mollie

Olympia Dukakis Rosie

Bruce Willis Voice of Mikey

Roseanne Barr Voice of Julie

Damon Wayans Voice of Eddie

A Tr-Star pictures presentation of a Jonathan D. Krane production. Director Amy Heckerling. Producer Jonathan D. Krane. Screenplay by Heckerling, Neal Israel. Cinematographer Thomas Del Ruth. Editor Debra Chiate. Costumes Molly Maginnis. Music David Kitay. Production design Reuben Freed. Art director Richard Wilcox. Set decorator Barry W. Brolly. Running time: 1 hour, 21 minutes.

MPAA-rated PG-13 (Language, sexual innuendo).

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