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Look Who's Talking (1989) and the Perils of Revisiting Childhood Faves

Hello everyone, Manuel here jumping aboard my personal DeLorean and taking a trip to 1989 to catch up with what’s still Amy Heckerling’s biggest box office success, the comedy Look Who's Talking.

There's a certain joy and sadness in revisiting films you remember enjoying as a kid. Some, because of their continued playback on cable or at your own home theater, seem to age with you so that their flaws become endearing while their wonders become treasures you hoard as if they were intended just for you. In this, films can be like old friends. Catching up with one you haven’t seen in over a decade can be a terrifying prospect. Have they aged well? Do you still share the same sense of humor? Will there be awkward silences where there were laughs before?

Much like its stock male lead, Look Who’s Talking is a flawed, sloppy, lovable creature. It may feature the scariest CGI baby that side of Ally McBeal, but at its heart it’s a funny rom-com that handles its “women having it all!” plot with aplomb. Heckerling’s quippy film follows Mollie (Kristie Alley) whose married lover (George Segal) knocks her up, refuses to divorce his wife for her (doing so instead for his younger interior decorator), leaving her to raise young Mikey by herself. John Travolta plays James, a roguish cab driver who after helping Mollie deliver her son, begins babysitting for her and well… you can probably guess where the film eventually lands. Certain things have aged better than others. The performances still shine. Proving why they were stars before they were Kathy Griffin punchlines, Travolta and Kristie show that a great rom-com needs great chemistry at its center to succeed. Indeed, Travolta’s on-screen charisma remains undeniable whenever he’s dancing while Alley’s comedic timing shows why she was a sitcom superstar. And that doesn’t even cover the presence of always welcome Olympia Dukakis who proves she can do raucously funny no-nonsense mom in her sleep. My favorite exchange from the film is Mollie asking her mom why she married her father:

-He looked good in a uniform.

-Yes, but didn’t they all look good in uniform?

-No... I didn’t care for the sailors and their bell-bottoms!”

It’s all in the delivery, but there’s a spark in Heckerling’s script that is undeniable. The same cannot be said for the central conceit of the film. Hearing Bruce Willis’s voice as Mikey’s inner monologue is as bizarre as it sounds and adds very little to the film as a whole; maybe this explains the diminishing returns of the film's two sequels which relied more heavily on its voice actors (Roseanne Barr, Diane Keaton and Danny DeVito) and thus on its rickety gimmick?

Mikey, voiced by Bruce Willis

If Look Who’s Talking is indeed an old friend, it’s one I’ll be unlikely to catch up with any time soon. She's just as nice as I remember her, if not as funny but her schtick gets old very soon (am I the only one impervious to cute kids in films unless they're named Richie and are (s)mothered by Julianne Moore?). Now I’m scared to see other old friends from that time (I’m looking at you Willow!) for fear I'll be just as disappointed.

What childhood staple have you revisited recently? Are there films better left as untouched warm memories of sitting around with friends in party hats while celebrating one's sixth birthday?

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Reader Comments (6)

Unfortunately I recently revisited "Rat Race": one of the few movies that made me, as a middle-schooler, laugh out loud repeatedly in the theater. I don't think I cracked a smile on the revisit. The condescending "donate the money to charity and use other people's suffering" as a prop device/guilt trip was especially galling and dated.

August 22, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercatbaskets

I thought the GCI baby was done quite well at that time.
I just can't take that song from The Beach Boys any serious ever again. I'lll always remember in what kind of scene it was used. *lol*

August 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSonja

Look Who's Talking holds up for what it is. Ghostbusters II has not aged well at all. Used to love it as a child, and have almost no use for it as an adult. Of course when Ghostbusters 3 arrives 2 will play like an Almodovar movie. No Holds Barred was always garbage but it has virtues even now. Ghost Dad is not half as bad as people remember Bill Cosby theatricals to be. RoboCop 2 is better than practically everything that falls into its category identification since the beginning of the 2000's.

TV shows from childhood, those programs that were syndicated, and not during their original run, won't age well on revisits. Gilligan's Island, The Brady Bunch, Get Smart, The Monkeys. Also, things of your time like Saved By The Bell, which can be enjoyed from the vantage point of irony and making fun of who those teen stars have been in their adult careers. Elizabeth Berkely we're looking at you. From teen feminist to autistic slut in a Paul Verhoeven movie -- the unintentional humor when revisiting her old episodes is one of the double payoffs of Showgirls.

August 22, 2014 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

I was hopelessly in love with my aggressively heterosexual college roommate ( an All-State Football Player). This movie was our only movie "date", so it has a special place inside my heart.

August 22, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

Just revisited Adventures in Babysitting. I love that '80s movies had a theme of "The City is a scary place, boo!" It's creaky in places (what in samhell is Bradley Whitford doing cast as a high school casanova when he looks 35?) but mostly holds up, when you remember it is a children's movie after all. I was mostly worried that it would be borderline racist -- or worse -- what with the idea that scary urban African-Americans menace our suburban white kid heroes. But much of that turned out to be the 'white kids are scared of black people" trope.

August 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJames

I love this movie! Also because the night I was born, my parents were just gonna watch this. Then my mom started getting contractions but she had to wait 15 minutes for the sports news before dad took her to the hospital :)

August 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMYS

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