These movies arrive on video store shelves this week.
(PG, 1999, 95 minutes, Columbia TriStar)
Here's the big idea: talking babies are funny. That being said, "Baby Geniuses" is less suggestive of "Look Who's Talking" than "Look Who Won't Shut Up About Diaper Gravy." Other than that charming new catch-phrase, there is little that is original and less to laugh about in this comedy about genius twins separated at birth (played by triplets Leo, Myles and Gerry Fitzgerald). As a sinister child-rearing researcher, Kathleen Turner does her best Cruella De Vil impression while poor Christopher Lloyd as her henchman looks trapped inside heavy make-up that makes him look like Vladimir Ilych Lenin. Contains cartoonish violence, potty talk and a mild Yiddish vulgarity. -- Michael O'Sullivan
BLAST FROM THE PAST
(PG-13, 1999, 112 minutes, New Line)
Believing the communists have dropped the big one in the 1960s, paranoid scientist Calvin Webber (Christopher Walken) locks himself and his wife (Sissy Spacek) for 30 years inside the family bomb shelter. While "Blast" stays underground, it's an enjoyable satire about preserving the white picket fence soul of America. Walken is the usual bizarre goof, as he teaches their newborn son, Adam, about topside America. But when the grown-up Adam (Brendan Fraser) infiltrates Los Angeles of the 1990s to meet Eve (Alicia Silverstone), an eligible "non-mutant" from Pasadena, we're shoved abruptly into a mediocre comic romance. Contains mild obscenities and kissy situations.
-- Desson Howe
(PG, 1999, 108 minutes, Universal)
Rejecting a future of coal mining in the early 1960s, West Virginia boy Homer H. Hickam Jr. began designing his own rockets at the age of 14. There's something down-home and appealing about this misty-eyed adaptation of Hickam's autobiography. But you can see most of the story's trajectory arcing before you, and there's some corniness, too, particularly from Laura Dern as Hickam's supportive teacher. But as Homer, Jake Gyllenhaal brings a sweet-natured, all-American exuberance to the movie. And Chris Cooper puts extra flesh on Homer's father, a heroic, union-despising coal mine supervisor with a hacking cough who expects Homer Jr. to follow him underground. Contains nothing objectionable, except infrastructural suspense in the mines.
-- Desson Howe
(R, 1999, 101 minutes, Paramount)
By closing credits, much of this film's set and cast will have been riddled with bullet holes, but the ultraviolence is tempered by smart neo-noir dialogue, a charismatic star performance by Mel Gibson and a clever plot about a holdup man obsessed with getting back his share of a payroll robbery after his partner (Gregg Henry) rips him off and leaves him for dead. The amount in question is a relatively paltry $70,000, so it's refreshing that the hackneyed motivation of greed is here replaced by the notion of honor -- even if it's only the perverse principle of justice that passes for honor among thieves. Contains profanity, torture, execution, drug use and sadomasochism.
-- Michael O'Sullivan