Picks and Pans Review: Baby Boom

updated 10/19/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/19/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Kristina and Michelle Kennedy, who were 17 months old when this film was made, are adorable, wide-eyed, sweet-looking twins. In their honest, open way, they earn every smile they arouse. Then there's Diane Keaton, who spends almost two hours acting like a nitwit. She plays a hotshot New York City businesswoman who inherits the baby of a distant British cousin when he and his wife die in a car crash. (The twins take turns playing the baby.) Now, this premise—two people dying tragically and leaving an orphaned child-does not immediately suggest uproarious laughter. Nor do director Charles Shyer or his co-writer, Nancy Meyers (collaborators on Irreconcilable Differences), have anywhere near the comedic skill to make the premise work. Their idea is to have Keaton depict an abject incompetent: She can't put on a diaper, she can't hire a nanny, she falls totally apart the instant the baby enters her life. What's more, she seems to have a total of zero friends and relatives she can ask for advice. She says things like, "I can't have a baby. I have a 12:30 lunch meeting." Comedies don't have to be realistic, of course, but this one is just silly. It depends on Keaton's transformation from hard-core yuppie to meltingly domestic mother to have-it-all '80s gal, yet she's not convincing in any of those roles. Shyer and Meyers don't know when to stop. In an early scene Keaton and her live-in boyfriend, Harold (Ghostbusters) Ramis, feed the baby an elegantly prepared dish of pasta, complete with parsley sprig. The child toys delicately with a strand, rubs it on her face and very deliberately lets it drop to the floor. She's totally charming, but then Shyer cuts away to a shot of Keaton and Ramis being hit in the face with a handful of pasta thrown with so much force and accuracy that it appears Roger Clemens must have moved into the high chair. The wretched excess continues later when Ramis moves out and Keaton quits her job to buy a house in Vermont. The house, needless to say, requires constant repairs by a handyman who's doing a Pa Kettle shtick. And Keaton is so distraught that she swoons idiotically into the arms of the local veterinarian, played with I'm-here-in-body-but-not-in-spirit sheepishness by Sam Shepard. Then Keaton decides to sell homemade baby food to make a living, using preserving techniques that must have been learned in a do-it-yourself botulism course. The only satisfying thing about the ending is that it keeps any more movie from happening. So listen, Kristina and Michelle. Babies, you kids got a great future, and it's all ahead of you. Get on the phone to your agent right now and give him a good bawling out. (PG)

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