Dec. 9, 2010

filmsgraded.com:
Look Who's Talking (1989)
Grade: 74/100

Director: Amy Heckerling
Stars: John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, Bruce Willis

What it's about. CPA Kirstie Alley does the taxes for wealthy philanderer George Segal. One night, he manages to seduce her, and gets her pregnant.

Alley's fetus (and eventual baby) finds amusing comments in his every situation, voiced by comedian Bruce Willis. When Alley goes into labor, taxi driver John Travolta takes a fatherly interest in the new arrival. He likes Mommy too, but Alley wants a more responsible daddy for little Mikey. But we suspect Travolta and his masculine charm will wear down Alley's resistance by the final reel.

Semi-con artist Travolta finagles his senile father, Abe Vigoda, into a good nursing home using Alley's address. We get to meet Alley's parents as well, and they are wise-cracking Olympia Dukakis and the more introverted Louis Heckerling, the real-life dad of writer/director Amy Heckerling.

How others will see it. Look Who's Talking was an unexpected box office hit, and briefly resurrected the considered-dead career of John Travolta. Which then returned to the dead until Pulp Fiction a few years later.

Comedies are seldom taken seriously, and Look Who's Talking was ignored by the awards circuit. Today, the imdb.com user ratings are mediocre at best. Men give it 5.5 out of 10, women a bit better (the film is, after all, targeted to them) at 6.1 out of 10.

How I felt about it. Good comedies are elusive. There are several good dramas for every good comedy. It is difficult to sustain the right mood for 90 minutes, and be charming and funny at the same time.

Amy Heckerling has had a checkered career. Her first triumph was Fast Times at Ridgemont High. That success was followed by two disappointments, Johnny Dangerously and European Vacation. She directed all those films, but did not write them. Look Who's Talking returned her to fast-track status, and was also the first feature she is credited with as a writer.

That movie spawned two sequels and a television series. I haven't seen them, but they are considered bad. The juice squeezed out of the formula, Heckerling started anew with Clueless, her greatest success. And, unfortunately, her last one, although her last effort, I Could Never Be Your Woman, scored surprisingly well with the under 18 crowd.

But her lengthy career, despite its ups and downs, shows that Heckerling has some talent as both a writer and director. The script for Look Who's Talking has its moments of hilarity (we especially like it when Segal's head explodes).

The right cast also helps. Alley, Travolta, Segal, Willis, Vigoda, and Dukakis are all perfect for their roles. This is particularly surprising for Alley, who has done little since except become notorious for gaining a lot of weight. Alley is right for the present film because she projects sexy angst. The first quality draws Travolta, and the second quality draws laughs. Willis is a natural wise guy, of course, and Travolta is such an outrageous dancer that we actually believe he knows the lyrics to "Town Without Pity." (Does anyone? Gene Pitney knew them, but he's dead.)

My favorite character, though, is George Segal. He's too old for his role, but he enjoys his selfish, roguish character so much that we completely forgive the miscast.