Who's In It: Ponijao (Namibia), Mari (Tokyo), Hattie (San Francisco), Bayarjargal (Mongolia)
The Basics: Four babies are born. Two are urban first-worlders, two live in remote rural areas. And in this mostly wordless documentary (but not soundless: it's a practically nonstop aural travelogue of gurgles, coos, shrieks and wails) you see them do the things babies do. And they do those things over and over and over.
What's The Deal: There's nothing quite like hearing a baby cry in digital THX. And that's how it starts, with two tiny siblings engaged in a battle of wills that quickly escalates to hitting, biting, screaming and hair-pulling. Every adorable moment that comes after (peeing, crawling, dragging cats around by the neck, chewing on animal bones found in the dirt, tantrums and eating toilet paper) is framed by that innocent brutality, reminding you that no matter how cute they seem, children everywhere are inherently wild creatures who need to be tamed or else they'd just eventually murder one another. Thing is, I didn't need a plotless, observational documentary to tell me that. It's not like watching Oceans. I can go to any McDonald's and see this stuff go down in their playground area. Okay, maybe not the part where Mongolian goats almost trample this one kid, but you get what I mean.
Freakiest Moments: Witnessing an adorable Namibian tot take a dump on her mom's thigh and then seeing mom wipe the kid's butt on a previously unsoiled portion of that thigh, right before using a dried corncob to rub it all clean. But the best scene of all involves a Japanese baby growing increasingly disenchanted with her toys before succumbing to what appears to be a sudden realization of life's futility. She hurls the colorful plastic pieces and herself down to the floor for a little moment of weepy existential angst. Or maybe she's just colicky. There's no narrator to tell you anything.
Why It's Not Quite As Torturous As Watching Other People's You Tube Clips: Director Thomas Balmes knows how to light a baby. Everything in this film looks gorgeous (the poop moments notwithstanding). It's like if someone from National Geographic came over and shot all your home movies
Where This Film Falls On My Own Scientifically Determined "Worth Your Time" Continuum Of Baby-Themed Entertainment Product: Well it's better than having to watch the Dancing Ally McBeal Baby or the E-Trade Baby or Look Who's Talking. But I'd sooner sit through Bebe's Kids, Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 and Little Man before dealing with this movie a second time. And obviously, it should go without saying but I'll say it anyway, that these docu-kids have nothing on the Eraserhead "They're not sure it is a baby" baby or The Brood or It's Alive or The Baby, which is 1973 horror film about a family with a diapered 21-year-old. That last one will make you think more than twice about ever conceiving.