SUPERBABIES: BABY GENIUSES 2 (PG, 90 minutes)
In 1999, "Baby Geniuses" (PG), a laughless comedy about a crazed child psychologist (Kathleen Turner) aiming to decipher baby talk to prove its brilliance, earned horrible reviews. So naturally, they've made a sequel. Apart from Jon Voight, slumming and turning in a rather droll, if lonely, performance as the German-accented villain, the movie amounts to cynical, cutesy claptrap. This time, when the tots exchange big words and ideas with one another (when adults aren't watching) their punkin lips move more convincingly than in the first film. That's not much of an improvement. The amusement-park-ish sets, the slapstick and (very fake) martial arts mayhem and the tots themselves might offer a glimmer of entertainment for kids 8 to 10. The PG rating reflects talk of snatching orphans and a scene between a boy and his dying father. Voight plays Bill Biscane, a media mogul bent on world domination via a children's TV network. Stan and Jean Bobbins (Scott Baio and Vanessa Angel) run an upscale day-care center in Los Angeles and enter into partnership with him, not realizing his evil ways. It is their own toddler and all the diapered dynamos in their care who stop him. The babies get help from Kahuna (triplets Leo, Myles and Gerry Fitzgerald), a mythic figure who looks like a little kid, but fights like a kung-fu master.
ANACONDAS: THE HUNT FOR THE BLOOD ORCHID (PG-13, 93 minutes)
True, it is formulaic and predictable, with bad jokes, baldly contrived tension and few truly scary bits, but "Anacondas" is kinda fun and many teens will enjoy the roller-coaster ride. Those with reptile or insect phobias should stay away, though, as the movie roils with gigantic (computer-generated, but convincing) man-eating anacondas. It doesn't overdo the gory bits, staying largely within PG-13 range. Huge snake jaws loom up from the river and grab at victims, but apart from sudden moves and occasional crunching sounds, very little of the killing occurs on camera. Other creepy critters include an alligator, a nasty spider and leeches. Corpses, skeletons, understated human violence, mild sexual innuendo and rare profanity also earn the rating.
The first "Anaconda" (PG-13, 1997) was set in the Amazon. This one follows a group of scientists and money mavens for a drug company into the jungles of Borneo in search of a rare orchid that may hold the key to an anti-aging serum. The hunky captain (Johnny Messner) of the boat they hire thinks the rainy season is a bad time to travel, but the lead scientist (Matthew Marsden) pays well. But nature pays back.
MEAN CREEK (R, 87 minutes)
A group of friends trick a school bully into going on a boat trip with them and then exact revenge. But the humiliating practical joke they plan turns tragic in this absorbing, well-played, though self-consciously profane drama about immature judgment and moral choices. Rated R for the strong, crude and explicit sexual language and curses the characters hurl at one another, "Mean Creek" isn't appropriate for kids under high school age. This is a pity, because the story explores bullying and the way misguided older kids can lead younger ones astray. Middle school and high-school-age characters smoke pot and cigarettes and drink beer, sometimes while driving. One older teen exposes his privates on a dare (we see only his behind). The film contains homophobic slurs, muted violence and a graphic verbal description of a parent's suicide.
Set in a blue-collar Oregon town, the film begins as obnoxious George (Josh Peck) beats up Sam (excellent Rory Culkin) in middle school. Sam tells his older brother Rocky (Trevor Morgan), who tells his pals (Ryan Kelley and Scott Mechlowicz). They concoct the scheme. Sam's girlfriend, Millie (Carly Schroeder), objects, and Sam begs the boys to drop it, but fate intervenes.