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‘Look Who’s Talking’ (PG-13)

By Roger Piantadosi
Washington Post Staff Writer
October 13, 1989

Don't fear "Look Who's Talking" because a friend tells you it's a John Travolta movie and then makes the yecch face. True, the struttin' sweathog is in it, and you still wanna give him a good smack, or at least a good shave -- but you'd be missing the point.

And the movie. Which isn't a John Travolta movie but an Amy Heckerling movie -- and a really fast, crafty one, which hasn't been true since the young director so impressed the Hollywood male-mentor pack with her 1982 "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." Since then, Heckerling's had too much fun ("National Lampoon's European Vacation"; "Johnny Dangerously"), but she also had a baby. And then she had another: the screenplay that became the cranky, hyperkinetic and uniquely precocious little comedy that makes the best of not just Travolta but of TV siblings Kirstie Alley, Bruce Willis, Abe Vigoda and others.

Like the dumb title, the story looks awful on paper: Unmarried accountant Alley gives birth to Mikey after an accidental pregnancy -- portrayed, by the way, in an elaborately, irresistably silly "Fantastic Voyage" title sequence -- and then struggles, with picturesque hysteria, to find a man. This could be the baby's real dad (George Segal as the married buccaneer businessman), or kind but goofy cabbie Travolta. Yecch.

But then, "Look Who's Talking" isn't on paper, silly. And Heckerling's central hokum is definitely silly, based on the notion that Mikey (and all babies, in fact) has somewhat adult, slightly cynical thoughts on everything that goes on around him, from conception to end credits -- and that these thoughts and embryonic wisecracks and creative interpretations are heard only by the audience via the aptly cast voice of overgrown kid Willis.

But via Heckerling's keen senses of visual comedy, musical humor (note Janis Joplin's "Cry Baby," in particular), rimshot-sharp editing and pace -- it works.

"So you're the one who's been kicking me," says a dazed and adoring Alley as her newborn son is laid at her side after a hilariously terrifying birth sequence -- seen and heard as it is from both sides of the womb.

Infant Mikey abruptly stops crying and returns the gaze, and we hear Willis muse aloud: "So you're the one who's been eating all that spicy food."

See "Look Who's Talking" for Mikey's views on making first impressions ("Hi, James," Mikey says, grabbing a finger. "Mind if I suck on that?") and grownups' baby talk (it's not what you think), for sendups of everything from "thirtysomething" fantasy sequences to Travolta's own checkered film past, for the entirely nontoxic chemistry between Alley and Travolta, and for neat little character acts by Vigoda as Travolta's cantankerous grandpa and Olympia Dukakis as Alley's not terribly helpful mother.

Travolta, you should know, has a dance scene. But it's not what you think.

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