Look Who's Talking Now (1993)

The late '80s/early '90s were an odd time for comedy. The classics of the previous era had landed on VHS and television, where they were embraced by kids. It didn't really matter most of those classics weren't intended for young audiences - we found them all the same. And it created a bizarre landscape where the concept of what was and wasn't appropriate for "all ages" was skewed. On some level, as long as kids laughed and didn't get the joke, (almost) no one considered it an issue.

That's how you get a franchise like the Look Who's Talking trilogy, which is best described as a kid-centered live-action cartoon intercut with microscopic footage of semen and jokes about marital infidelity. The series is a raunchy sex comedy aimed at six-year-olds. 

They were almost certainly trying for a family comedy with something for everyone, but the mix of styles and tones is completely off the mark. This isn't a case where innuendo is used to deliver an occasional joke: the adult humor is sustained and heavily leaned upon.

The sex comedy mainly centers around the relationship of the adult leads, James (John Travolta) and Mollie (Kristie Alley, who... look, I'm just going to say Diane was better and leave this link as proof). The kiddie side of the movie was centered around comical voiceovers, originally of the movie's infants, but - in the case of this installment - dogs.

All that's background: we're not here to discuss the first two installments, just the third, since that's the one set over the holidays. And, to be fair, I haven't seen the first two since the early '90s, and my memory of them is hazy, to say the least. But a quick skim of Wikipedia confirms I remember enough to safely say Look Who's Talking Now isn't a complete aberration. The whole franchise is a mess.

For the record, I'm fairly certain this is the first time I've actually seen the last entry in this series, and if I have any say in the matter, it will also be the last. The movie picks up a few years after the earlier films, though it's worth noting the narrative moves faster than the release dates: the original Look Who's Talking came out four years before this one, and Mikey, the baby from that movie, is now seven, plus or minus. His kid sister, Julie, is a few years younger.

After a brief sequence showing Mollie and James juggling two kids, we're shown multiple coerced sexual encounters as James ignores Mollie telling him she's too tired, and a dog outside argues his girlfriend into sleeping with him after she initially refuses. Cut to dog semen with voiceovers.

This results in the birth of a litter of puppies, one of which being Rocks, voiced by Danny DeVito. He briefly interacts with Mickey, though he winds up adopted by bikers before running away, getting found by a homeless man who briefly raises him, then he's eventually captured by a dog catcher.

I should note the timeline is pretty muddled here. I'm not sure when Rocks is conceived, but he's newborn sometime in September and a full-grown dog a few months later. Honestly, the least of this movie's problems.

Meanwhile, Mikey is undergoing an existential crisis brought about by seeing a mall Santa remove his beard. This causes him to question the existence of Santa and magic in general. For reasons that aren't remotely explained, his parents try and force the myth down his throat.

On top of all this, James gets a new job as a private pilot for an executive named Samantha who is secretly trying to steal him away from Mollie. James is completely oblivious to her motives, though Mollie is suspicious of both Samantha and James.

Oh, by the way, if this movie has a central theme, it's that if a woman suspects her husband's having an affair, she should really trust him. Probably best virtually no one's watched this in almost three decades.

By now, you're likely wondering how any of the above ties together. I doubt you'll be surprised to hear the answer is "poorly." Reasoning that Mikey's depression can only be cured by getting him the one thing he wants, James takes the boy to a pound, where they adopt Rocks. At the same time, Samantha surprises them by giving the family her own prize poodle, Daphne, in an attempt to ingratiate herself with James. I guess. Honestly, it's not at all clear why she gives James's family a dog if she's trying to break that family up, but they wanted an excuse to introduce a second, pampered dog into the story.

Rocks and Daphne don't get along due to their differences, but eventually they find common ground and fall in love. I'm guessing this mirrors whatever romance James and Mollie went through way back in the first movie, though I don't care enough to check.

Meanwhile, Samantha is finding excuses to pull James away for extended periods of time, forcing him to miss the lead up to the holidays. Things come to a head when she tricks him into flying her upstate on Christmas Eve for a last-minute meeting that of course doesn't exist. She tries to seduce him, though it takes him a while to catch on to what she's doing.

And while all that's going on, Mollie decides to save her marriage by figuring out where Samantha and James are, piling the kids (and dogs) into their car, and trying to drive to a remote cabin in a blizzard. Unsurprisingly, they drive off the road. Then they get accosted by a wolf, which Rocks fights off. Rocks and Daphne then split up in search of help - Rocks follows James's scent to the cabin, while Daphne locates a couple rangers.

By now, James realizes Samantha's been lying to him. He tells her off, she fires him, and Rocks pees on her leg, which is what passes for resolution in this film. James and Rocks head out into the snow to find their family, but instead come across the wolf from earlier, now with his entire pack. This doesn't amount to much - there's a brief fake-out where the movie tries to convince you it's got the guts to kill Rocks before revealing everything's fine. They meet up with the rest of the family at the ranger station soon after, so they're able to spend Christmas together. Oh, and one of the rangers reveals jingle bells coming over the radio. Take that however you like.

I've already been pretty clear about my overall opinion of this, but let's discuss the experience in a little more depth. Despite focusing on the disconnect between the subject matter and content of this thing, it wasn't really what made it painful to watch. I think that's one of many issues keeping this from connecting with audiences, and it's the most glaring element, but there's no reason this couldn't still have been fun. And yet, it isn't.

By far, the largest issue in this movie is that the bulk is a joyless, saccharine mess. You'd expect something with this premise to offer the tone of a screwball comedy; instead, it feels like you're watching a Lifetime movie.

That's actually not a fair assessment of the entire movie. The opening plays out like a fairly conventional comedy. Not a particularly good comedy, but at least they're not trying to pull your heartstrings. There are also a handful of somewhat farcical dream sequences peppered through the movie. Again, none of these are particularly exceptional, but they're both more imaginative and more interesting than anything else going on. The best of these is a sequence playing out halfway through where Mollie and James have simultaneous dreams that merge together. For a few brief moments, the movie shifts into fantasy, and becomes fun to watch. This is undercut with some boring choices around the dream version of Samantha, as well as perhaps the movie's least advisable gag, but still... relative to the dreary, dramatic bullshit it interrupts, it's a nice diversion. 

I don't have much to say about the holidays in this movie, since the bulk of the role Christmas plays is fairly self-explanatory. For what it's worth, the vast majority of the film is set around the holidays, and even the part that isn't finds a way to wedge in an early Christmas list. And obviously the whole "will they spend Christmas together" question is what drives the supposed tension. Again, I think that's obvious from the synopsis and not particularly interesting.

What might be worth exploring is the movie's portrayal of Santa, in particular Mikey's growing skepticism and his parents' fixation on stamping it out. This is a recurring theme through the movie; they want Mikey to believe, and they argue with him when he doesn't. I'm a proponent of the big red guy, but this is a pretty awful depiction of how the myth should be shared. I understand this is a comedy, not a parenting guide, but I do think the movie wanted Mikey's arc back to belief to be satisfying, and... yeah, not remotely.

That said, I will acknowledge they showed some restraint in the ranger station at the end. The bells over the radio bit could easily be explained with the rangers playing with recordings or even broadcasting from the next room. Honestly, I'd half expected the movie to have Santa show up in person or perform some obvious miracle, so in that respect they exceeded my expectations.

But in virtually no other. This movie attempts to merge styles and tones that probably shouldn't be combined, and in the process fails to deliver on any of them. It's a dull kid's comedy, a toothless sex comedy, and a vapid rom-com. This has been all but forgotten, and I feel I owe the world an apology for dredging it up at all.