Much research is spawned in DTLT as a direct result of casual conversations with my colleagues, faculty, and staff. I can’t even remember how Martha and I got talking about what babies, who are unable to talk, are thinking at any given time, but I was reminded of the film Baby Geniuses. Released in 1999, it had mild commercial success, but not so much critical acclaim. The sequel to that movie Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 (2004), was roundly panned and received a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It was the last movie that Bob Clark directed. He was killed, along with his 22 year old son, by a drunken driver in 2007.
The Christmas holiday’s are a bittersweet time for me. I have wonderful memories growing up and loving the holiday season. It is difficult as an adult today not to be repulsed by crass commercialism, and by fights breaking out in box stores for things that will ultimately become gifts for “loved ones”. Around the time I was moving into adulthood, 1983, the movie A Christmas Story came out. It was, as they say, an instant classic. It has grown in status to compete with the likes of It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, and A Christmas Carol (the
1954 1951 edition with Alastair Sim) as “favorite Christmas movie”. Bob Clark directed A Christmas Story, and while it is surely irreverent, it has an unmatched sweetness to it. Clark’s story gets me through Christmas every year.
ClarkWORLD (2008) is a documentary about a storyteller, Bob Clark, who directed A Christmas Story, Baby Geniuses (and BG2), as well as films the likes of Porky’s (1982) and the sequel, Porky’s II: The Next Day (1983), Black Christmas (1974), Murder by Decree (1979), and Tribute (1980). To say that’s an eclectic career is an understatement, but that’s what makes Clark’s story so compelling. Each film project that he undertook was a story in itself, for example Black Christmas it turns out was the precursor to “slasher” films and with direct lineage to Carpenter’s Halloween (1978). Murder by Decree was a film that brought together the likes of Christopher Plummer and James Mason, along with Geneviève Bujold, Donald Sutherland, John Gielgud, and David Hemmings (among others). However, A Christmas Story gets the most attention in ClarkWORLD, which includes an interview with Peter Billingsly, who played “Ralphie”. It deserves the attention.
One of the documentary’s opening scenes is with Clark’s long-time assistant driving through the Everglades in Florida looking for the canal where Porky’s was shot. Clark went to school at the University of Miami where he studied theater. Clark mentions off-handedly about the Miami film scene, which I would have loved to hear more about. But there are many interesting and heart-felt stories about Clark and the projects that he selected or that were foisted upon him. Ever heard of Rhinestone (1984)? Go ahead, look it up and be amazed.
So finally, I have to admit, that I have a certain guilty affection for Baby Geniuses. I like its premise and that is that babies contain universal knowledge up until the point where they “cross over” and learn to talk. If we could only learn to communicate with them before they lose that knowledge. OK, so it’s not a great film and it’s on Roger Ebert’s “most hated” list, but I hated The Gods Must Be Crazy, so we’re even. The point is that Clark saw something in the premise and he attempted to tell the story. Sometimes it doesn’t work out.