I remember first watching BABY: SECRET OF THE LOST LEGEND with my family on the screen of a drive-in movie theatre. Like many children my age, I was fascinated with dinosaurs (and still am) and found the movie completely captivating. I remember crying at a particular scene in the movie and trying to understand why the soldiers with guns were so cruel. Many years later I have been able to watch the film again. I noticed many things I would have never noticed as a kid, such as pacing, acting, etc. However, despite having been made over twenty years ago, BABY remains rather well-preserved and is a special treat for those with a nostalgic attachment.
BABY begins in the streets of an African city during a parade and festival that reminded me of some from a James Bond movie. One man is being pursued through the streets by another. The chase ends in an alley and we discover why the one man was being hunted: photos of the mysterious Mokele-Mbembe, a supposed dinosaur that natives of the Congo believe to still exist and roam the jungles to this day. From the festive streets, the film quickly moves to a more remote area where American sportswriter George Loomis (William Katt of THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO fame) is trying to teach some of the natives at a paleontological research camp how to play baseball. He is interrupted by a phone call from New York offering him a job at the Times. George is eager to get back to the States, but receives the offer just as his wife, Susan Matthews-Loomis (Sean Young), has discovered the biggest find of her life. Susan's mentor, Dr. Eric Kiviat (Patrick McGoohan), tries to downplay her discovery and claims it's just a giraffe. However, after talking with a Red Cross relief worker, Susan begins to realize that her discovery was substantial. A little marital conflict ensues, but Susan sets off down river and is immediately followed by George. Their voyage brings them in contact with a small family of brontosaurs (now known as apatosaurs). But Susan and George aren't the only one's looking for the dinosaurs, so is Dr. Kiviat and he has hired an army of guerilla soldiers to help him capture the creatures and bring them to captivity. The dinos are in some serious trouble and Susan and George are their only chance for escape.
BABY has elements from several different film genres as evidenced by the cover of the DVD which quotes the Los Angeles Daily News as saying BABY is "a cross between RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and E.T." There clearly is some evidence of Indiana Jones, especially towards the beginning of the movie and at the end. The film does have a similar spirit as E.T. in that Baby becomes separated from her parents and Susan and George try to reunite the broken family. As I mentioned earlier, there also seems to be a bit of spy-action involved, ala James Bond that influences the opening sequence and the way the villain, Dr. Kiviat reacts through much of the film. Despite this hodge-podge of genre mashing, BABY works. The different influences don't stand out in any jarring way and the overall structure of the film flows together rather nicely.
The movie has also aged rather well. Except for a few items of clothing and a heavy bent towards the changing roles of men and women, it's difficult to place the film from a specific period. The movie was made in the mid 1980s, but if someone didn't know that they might guess the movie was made anywhere from the late 1960s until the mid 1990s. About the only thing that has drastically changed since BABY was released are special effects. The special effects in BABY are a far cry from the CGI-heavy films audiences have now become acquainted with. Nevertheless, at the time BABY offered some impressive special effects. Animatronics and classic film trickery make up the bulk of the movie's special effects and they really aren't that bad.
BABY is rated PG, but there are some parents who feel the film isn't appropriate for children. The film was released just as the PG-13 rating was being used. Sensitive parents should know that the movie includes some violence (soldiers with guns, natives with bows and arrows, explosions), some nudity (once again natives dancing and walking in the wilderness), and some foul language. I don't think any of this takes away from the film or is anything that should cause parents and guardians to become overtly concerned about. The violence in the film is of the type that was typical of early 1980s family television and seems almost cartoony compared to what passes on network television today. The nudity is akin to pictures from National Geographic and the foul language is used rarely (I think there are some sh**s and a couple of d**ns). There's also a hint of sexual innuendo, but it occurs between the married husband and his wife and doesn't seem out of place. In fact, the relationship between George and Susan is a healthy one and could be viewed as a cinematic example of what a healthy, functional marriage is supposed to look like.
I loved BABY when I first saw it as a child and it was one of those movies that has stuck with me my whole life. Seeing the film decades later, I know that it isn't the greatest dinosaur movie ever made, but it's not really that bad either.
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