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Baby’s Day Out

July 1, 1994

BABY’S DAY OUT was a financial flop panned by critics, and from what I remember kind of a breaking point where for a while John Hughes became thought of more as the kids-movies-about-testicle-smashing guy instead of the beloved-‘80s-teen-coming-of-age movie guy. I don’t really have a strong opinion about his work but I found this one for the most part unfunny and annoying. I’ll try not to be too mean about it.

Hughes is the writer/producer, but the director is Patrick Read Johnson, who was a miniature model maker on 2010: THE YEAR WE MAKE CONTACT, BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE and WARLOCK, second unit director of DEAD HEAT, and writer/director of SPACED INVADERS. It makes sense that this would come from someone with that background, because it’s a big live action cartoon with FX by ILM, including one of the first c.g. three-dimensional cityscapes and whatever tricks are involved in making it look like an actual baby is crawling around a city being lifted around by cranes, barely avoiding getting run over, etc.

Twin babies Adam Robert Worton and Jacob Joseph Worton star as 9-month old Bennington Austin Cotwell IV, nickname Bink. Verne Troyer is the baby’s stunt double – his first movie. In the opening scene Bink’s nanny Gilbertine (Cynthia Nixon, ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES) reads him a picture book which is also called Baby’s Day Out, and also about a baby crawling around a city.

Bink and Gilbertine live in a big mansion with Bink’s wealthy industrialist (or whatever) parents Laraine (Lara Flynn Boyle, THE DARK BACKWARD, MOBSTERS, RED ROCK WEST) and Bennington III (Matthew Glave, GHOST IN THE MACHINE), plus loyal butler Mr. Andrews (John Neville, THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN). Today Mom decides she wants to have Bink’s portrait taken because all of the rich people put their babies’ pictures in the newspaper (?) and there are starting to be questions about why they haven’t (?). But a trio of wacky criminals, Eddie (Joe Mantegna, HOUSE OF GAMES), Norby (Joe Pantoliano, RISKY BUSINESS) and Veeko (Brian Haley, ALWAYS) take the place of the photographer, run away with Bink and try to collect a $5 million ransom.

Of course, it will be harder than they assume. The baby follows a pigeon out the window onto a ledge, and they spend most of the rest of the movie chasing him across the city (on a roof, on a bus, in the zoo, through a pipe, up a skyscraper) and receive various types of bonkings. They are kicked and punched in the balls, drooled on, mangled by a gorilla, hit in the head with flying sledge hammers, they slip on drool,fall off of buildings landing crotch first on many different objects, get their toes run over by a car, industrial waste is dumped on them, you name it. And all the while they scream, shriek, mug, whack each other on the head, get real upset, and all that sort of humor coded stuff.

One weird part is when Norby falls off the skyscraper and lands like this:

The body is motionless except for a limp jiggle. Looks absolutely dead. We immediately learn that he’s alive (then he falls and smashes his dick and then falls into wet cement), but as far as I can tell the other two assume he has expired and don’t care at all.

The aggressive score by Bruce Broughton (HONEY I BLEW UP THE KID, STAY TUNED) tells us very stridently how sweet the baby is and how amusing everything else is, and usual I feel very condescended to. For me this style of comedy is a fairly painful experience, but in the interest of positivity I would like to name a few comedy ideas that kind of amused me. There’s the part when Eddie is falling and grabs onto a birdfeeder, which then detaches from its window one suction cup at a time. Kind of a Wile E. Coyote moment. And there’s the part where he jumps out onto a crane to try to do something but then he gets trapped on it because suddenly the crane operator and the entire work site clock out and leave and there’s a shot of Eddie hanging there silhouetted in front of the sun going down.

To me the funniest performance is Haley as Veeko. He has some parts where he gets to play it very straight and not too broad, and he got a genuine laugh out of me from the self righteous way he delivers the line “I don’t know about you, but I don’t eat pieces of my body” when criticized for biting off and spitting out his fingernails. (Regional note: I wasn’t familiar with Haley but I read that he grew up in Seattle, was inspired to become an actor after stumbling across the filming of SCORCHY downtown, and was successful as a comedian here in the ‘80s before moving to L.A. He later played cops in MARS ATTACKS!, THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE and THE DEPARTED and Clint’s son in GRAN TORINO.)

Pantoliano also plays it as straight as he can, but then they gotta run around screaming and crying and being wacky. It’s not nearly as bad of a bumbling criminal trio as in 3 NINJAS KICK BACK, but that’s hardly an excuse.

Mostly this is the kind of humor that may or may not appeal to very young kids, but I will not pretend to be entirely exempt. After a painfully drawn out scene where Eddie has to talk to cops while hiding the baby under a coat on his lap and the baby somehow gets a lighter and somehow knows how to use it and somehow creates an inferno on Eddie’s dick, Veeko tries to help by stomping the fire out. Just repeatedly slamming his boots down hard on Eddie’s crotch, twisting his foot around, just mashing that dude’s junk into paste. That was pretty funny. If any moment in this movie can justify its existence it is definitely the dick stomping.

Another positive thing I can say about the movie is that it has very high production values for a lowbrow slapstick movie like, say, ERNEST GOES TO SCHOOL earlier this summer. There’s lots of on location shooting, the design of the city has a slightly retro style to match the picture book, there’s a big soundstage rooftop set, and for the sequence where various shenanigans happen with a zoo gorilla they actually got Rick Baker to create the gorilla suit and animatronic, so it’s very realistic.

I gotta wonder if Baker was offended when he saw this atrocious, collaged together poster that made me assume it was just gonna be the typical gorilla costume from the costume rental place. Why would they do that? They paid to make the movie at this level and then chose to pretend otherwise!

I do have a soft spot for live action movies mimicking cartoons. This one is clearly inspired by Popeye and Swee’Pea cartoons like Little Swee’Pea (1936), where the baby gets loose in the zoo, and Child Sockology (1953), where he crawls onto a skyscraper under construction. But there’s a pretty big difference between watching a little drawing with dots for eyes and an actual baby. This is gonna sound horrible – it probly is horrible – but I kind of hate this baby. (The fictional character, not the presumed innocent until proven guilty twins who played him.)

In order to make all the child peril not upsetting they have to never show the baby crying or getting scared, so instead he smiles or giggles at each thing that happens to him, and says “boo boo” every time something reminds him of his picture book. It’s just these three moves on a loop, so even if you have a soft spot for baby cuteness I’m not sure you’re gonna be up for 99 minutes of it. If you could enjoy 99 minutes of peekaboo with someone else’s child then this may be your thing, but personally I’m not built like that.

I’m obviously not the intended audience for BABY’S DAY OUT, so who gives a shit, but for me its childlike simplicity ended up feeling kinda gross at the end. When we meet this kid in a nursery bigger than my apartment, attended to by a nanny and butler, in a house with fucking columns on it, his idiot parents obsessed with getting his photo in the paper so people know he’s “the prettiest baby in the city,” it seems to have in mind some light satire about the absurdity of rich people. But from the moment of the kidnapping the parents become serious characters (with respectably serious performances), the music wants us to feel heartbroken for them, and there’s even a treacly scene where the mom solemnly acknowledges the nanny’s part in raising the baby and that this is hard on her as well. At the end the kid is back in his nursery and we’re supposed to be so happy that everyone lives happily ever after and shit. I guess all I’m saying is that one of the many ways PEE-WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE makes this live action cartoon shit seem easy is having an interestingly skewed world view. I think this sort of thing works better when it’s winking at weirdos than patting squares on the back, but maybe that’s just my bias.

The weirdest fact about BABY’S DAY OUT is that it was hugely popular in India and Pakistan and has been remade in Telugu, Hindi, Malayalam, and Sinhalese. But that didn’t cause them to make the sequel possibly teased at the end, when Bink pulls out a book called Baby’s Trip to China. I have no idea if that was something they really thought about doing, but it’s probly for the best that Hughes didn’t get the chance.

Johnson followed BABY’S DAY OUT with ANGUS, and then created DRAGONHEART (on which he retained a story credit). In this century he spent many years working on the very personal 5-25-77, based on his real life experience of seeing STAR WARS early when he was a kid. He also did some more visual effects work (he has a credit on Thomas Jane’s DARK COUNTRY).

* * *

Summer of 1994 connections:

Like I LOVE TROUBLE, released two days earlier, BABY’S DAY OUT takes place in Chicago. Huge week for the windy city. Also the bad guys’ hideout is a penthouse apartment with a window like the one in THE CROW.

I know that was Detroit but I’m pretty sure they take place in the same cinematic universe. The only argument against that would be that Anna Levine (NIGHT OF THE BLOODY APES, WARLOCK, UNFORGIVEN, TRUE ROMANCE), who played Sarah’s junkie mother Darla in THE CROW, plays a different mother character in this. But maybe she’s Darla’s sister or something.


There was a children’s novelization written by Ron Fontes and Justine Korman, a husband and wife team who have written over 600 children’s books, including adaptations of THE LION KING – the movie the studio credited with destroying its chances at the box office.

A video game was created for Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis and Gameboy, but they decided not to release it, likely ruining millions of childhoods.

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19 Responses to “Baby’s Day Out”

  1. Franchise Fred

    July 3rd, 2024 at 6:51 pm

    Ho. Ly. Shit. This is better than seeing Blown Away or The Shadow on this site. Ok, hear me out. I loved this in 1994.

    Obviously it was a blatant attempt to cash in on Home Alone. And apparently somewhere between 8-years-old and infant is people’s line for reckless child endangerment being funny. That’s actually how it works for me. Oh, you think Home Alone is funny? What if it was a damn baby.

    The mischief construction actually works solidly. The gorilla scene builds with each kidnapper trying to distract the gorilla. The crotch scene is an all timer and really looks like Mantegna let them light him up. It also amused me when Joey Pants made up the lyrics to Mary Had a Little Lamb.

    So I completely understand what the intended audience rejected this. To me it’s so subversive it works as an indictment on that kind of kids movie, intentionally or not.

    Johnson said on Twitter he had a director’s cut. I wonder what was different. Maybe the Sega Genesis game has clues.

    Anyway, thanks for including this, Vern.

  2. I was under the impression UK was one of the countries where this was a surprisingly big hit, but seems it was slightly bigger here than it was in the US, but no more.

    I did see this as a kid, and I think I liked it, but I liked most things I saw then. I might well like it now, sounds like me.

    It’s interesting how John Hughes went back to being associated with his 80s Teen movies pretty much the second these 90s kids/family films stopped, and certainly since he’s died, even though they were ultimately probably seen by more people. As huge as HOME ALONE is culturally it doesn’t seem to be a huge point of association with him.

    My other memory of this, which may be false as I can’t find anything on it, is that Hughes supposedly auditioned British comedian Harry Enfield for one of the mobsters because he was reportedly a big fan of his Sketch shows. If that had been successful I wonder what kind of difference that would have made in his career? Probably closer to DROP DEAD FRED than 10 levels.

  3. As a man who hates babies but loves slapstick, this one seemed taylormade for me, but I really couldn’t warm up to it. There are some highlights. The Gorilla scene (RIP Harambe) plays great as comedy and suspense bit. The fireballs scene made me laugh the most, because of how sadistically outdrawn it was. And the construction site part had a wonderful string of “If this would’ve been an R-rated action flick, they would’ve met an appropriately gruesome demise” moments.

    Yet the whole thing never really works and I don’t know why. There were apparently some post production troubles, that had John Hughes and the director constantly clashing about things, until Hughes first abandoned the movie to do something else (which never materialized), then came back, but (understandably) was hit too hard by the death of John Candy to continue on it. But I don’t know if another round in the editing room would’ve improved it that much. Hughes continued to crank out a few more “Bumbling criminals fall on their asses” script (FLUBBER, 101 DALMATIANS), but yeah, by 1994 this kind of movie really felt played out.

    Plus the subplot about the rich parents, who start the movie as shallow society assholes and then learn the hard way how much they really love their baby, doesn’t work and only slows the movie down. But honestly, if the baby would’ve been kidnapped from “normal” parents, it would’ve been way more horrifying! They probably can’t pay their rent AND now have to deal with the loss of their baby? It would’ve dragged the movie down like when you realize that in BIG Tom Hanks’ parents believe that their son was kidnapped by some pervert who runs around in kiddy underpants.

    That said: One thing that surprised me about this movie was the camera work. There were a whole bunch of cool looking shots and interesting camera angles, so that seemed to be not just some random hack’s work. That Patrick Read Johnson guy really seemed to try and I can imagine why he kept clashing with John Hughes (even twice, since he got fired from DENNIS THE MENACE, but then got BABY’S DAY OUT as an apology.)

    Also it was nice to randomly see the janitor from SCRUBS and Chief Vick from PSYCH pop up in random pre-TV fame bit parts.

    And in case of Harry Enfield’s possible participation, it probably would’ve prevented us from KEVIN & PARRY GO LARGE, aka the greatest movie about DJing ever, so that would’ve sucked.

  4. Napoleon Nitroglycerin

    July 4th, 2024 at 3:51 am

    Oh, God, I mercifully forgot about this, until now. And now I remember… I remember looking at the VHS cover and taking it, reading the back and thinking that perhaps it would be an interesting live cartoon, like “Roger Rabbit”. And it wasn’t. It was extremely stupid, it was irritating, but above all, it was empty, emotionless, it was about nothing and it provoked nothing, except the finger’s movement onto the “fast forward” part of the remote’s wheel.

    I thought now that it was like that other atrocious, imbecilic anti-comedy of the same time (?), “Mouse House” – that was some thankfully also-forgotten film about two cretins trying to kill one mouse for two hours – but it wasn’t. The mouse one at least provoked *something* – anger, because it was so hatefully, aggressively horrible. But this “Baby” was more like its other spiritual parasite brother from the same period – “Dennis the Menace”. Which I also forgot until now, but at this moment I remember how empty, soulless, pointless and contentless it was, and how my kid self kept fast-forwarding it and wondering: “Why was this made? What is its point? Does it have one? Did it have one? Was there any idea behind it, any story, or was it just filmed in one day without a single thought before the cameras were turned on?”.

    Oh, and I wouldn’t say with certainty that those scenes in the giant house were supposed to be parodies… The “Hollywood types” are simply that way themselves, and they think it’s wonderful and admirable – “quirky”, they would probably call it – and since they recognize it, they love it and they identify with it in their own crowd, that’s all the attachment that they have. That’s why they make films about themselves and for themselves, and are enamored with them between themselves – see “Ocean’s 12”.

  5. This review WAS amazing. And then at the end, the discovery of a “Baby’s Day Out” videogame???

  6. Napoleon, if you are thinking about MOUSE HUNT, that one is neither forgotten nor was it bad. This and BABY’S DAY OUT are actually two pretty good examples for respectively how to make and not make a slapstick movie with a heightened cartoon reality.

  7. BTW, I can only imagine that the director’s cut includes more John Neville. He is mute in most of his scenes, says two words after 13 minutes and then disappears. Still not as big of a headscratcher as his prominently billed part as a waiter in one scene of DANGEROUS MINDS, but what’s up with that?

  8. FYI, Happy Fourth, America! Might be our last!

    Turns out, Patrick Reed Johnson has been talking about Baby’s Day Out on Twitter recently.

  9. #CrowWatch2K24 sees Vern keeping a log of the various ways that Baby’s Day Out and The Flintstones etc are very similar to The Crow and were in fact probably inspired by it, etc.

  10. Dreadguacamole

    July 4th, 2024 at 5:27 pm

    I have no idea how it did in the box office, but this had a *huge* marketing push in Argentina; you couldn’t escape it for a few weeks. This was only a couple of years after that fucking Jordie baby techno song, too. I’m surprised my generation wasn’t put off babies completely.

  11. I would mildly defend the DENNIS THE MENACE along the following lines;
    – It does a nice enough job of capturing the likably square 50s aesthetic of the comic strip within the limits of a blandish 90s family film (I’ve never seen the sitcom version so I don’t know how it compares there)
    – Matthau, Plowright and Thompson are all pretty good in it
    – “I’ll never be big enug”

    That’s it. I said it was mild (plus it’s been a while since I’ve seen it)

    And obviously as I leave I stick out my tongue and shout “the UK Dennis the Menace is better!”

  12. It’s just called DENNIS in the UK for those reasons BTW, same with the DIC cartoon (which muted the lyrics in the theme song!) and I believe the sitcom was renamed JUST DENNIS. Disgracefully we’ve bent the knee in recent years and rebranded our DTM as Dennis and Gnasher, not that I begrudge dear Gnasher his hard-earned title slot.

  13. I too have to semi-defend DENNIS (Also only that in Germany, but I guess because DENNIS DIE BEDROHUNG doesn’t rhyme and English titles for kids stuff weren’t that common here back then.) as one of the less annoying post-HOME ALONE flicks, because as Pacman said, it does nail the style of its source material and Walter Matthau as Mr Wilson is so absolutely damn fucking perfect casting! Definitely top 5 in terms of live action versions of comic book or cartoon characters. Not necessarily in terms of looks, but who else would you hire to portray a lovable grump whose anger at a kid who doesn’t mean to cause any trouble is slowly reaching the critical boiling point?

    Whenever John Hughes tried to insert “heart” into is pratfall comedies, it came out with mixed results. The stuff with the parents in BABY’S DAY OUT? Fuck that. Not working. But when Mr Wilson tells Dennis that he doesn’t like him and instantly regrets it? Just heartbreaking, because it’s so understandable and relatable. This and Kevin learning in the first HOME ALONE that the scary old man is actually a nice grandpa, are absolutely peak “mature moments” in 90s John Hughes flicks.

    Plus: DENNIS has Christopher Lloyd. Who doesn’t love Christopher Lloyd?

  14. I guess I’ll defend Hughes in the 90s with 101 DALMATIANS, wisely doing that as a Glenn Close starring vehicle. Sure he hangs his HOME ALONE gimmick on it too, but that was a big hit film at the time and better or worse helping to inspire the live action Disney remakes trend we’re still getting to this day.

  15. I mentioned that somewhere else before, but while I don’t think the 101 DALMATIANS live action version is worth watching, Glenn Close is pretty great in it and I appreciate that she gets an actual comeuppance in this version in the form of slapstick violence and a police arrest, while in the cartoon her punishment was basically that she couldn’t make her fur coat. I had to look up who that movie’s Wet Bandits were. Hugh Laurie and Mark Williams. Could’ve sworn one of them was Ted LEvine, but he was in FLUBBER. These movies really are one huge blur.

  16. I loved this one as a kid, it just felt like a live action Looney Tune. I’m sure now the cloying music and mugging would get old quickly, but I admit to cracking a smile just reading about the crotch conflagration, I am still a sucker for violent slapstick.

    That said, @Napoleon I think you were referring to Mouse Hunt, and I agree with CJ that it is remembered, and fondly. I was a teen by the time I saw that and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Baby’s Day Out uses early CG for its bland, vaguely olde-timey city, but Mouse Hunt actually uses it to do stuff that previously would not have been possible outside of a cartoon. It was directed by Gore Verbinski before The Ring, Rango, and the Pirates movies, and the visual style is fantastic. Plus a great Christopher Walken cameo! I haven’t seen Mouse Hunt in nearly as many years as Baby’s Day Out (both 25+ years), but I would bet money that Mouse Hunt holds up quite well and Baby’s Day Out does not.

  17. grimgrinningchris

    July 15th, 2024 at 5:06 am

    I’ve never seen this and never plan to but Mouse Hunt is great! Up there with Clue, Brain Donors and The Imposters as throwbacks to 30s broad, or screwball or slapstick comedies. And directed by a true and eclectic talent. So I’m not sure how valid comparing the two movies is.

    Also giving some props to Mason Gamble in Dennis The Menace. The same role that the assholes at the Razzies nominated him for worst New actor actually won him a young artist award for best new actor.

    Kid was talented with solid roles in things from Rushmore to Bad Moon later too. Looks like he retired about 15 years ago and is a marine biologist now.

  18. Johnson used to hang out in the old AICN chat (before all the unpleasantness, of course) and this movie came up. he implied hughes was hell bent on getting the movie made and controlled the set since he was pretty powerless in comparison, leading to the drama with him leaving/coming back etc. on the one hand i could sense he was trying to absolve himself of responsibility for a notorious failure, and it would be easy to call him a sellout and say he should own up to it if his name is on it, but on the other hand im sure most aspiring directors would make a similar choice in his shoes if the alternative was not being able to make anything at all. spaced invaders was a frequent “free kids movie” rental for my family and its plenty broad in its own weird ways (why is one of the aliens doing a jack nicholson impression?) but you can also tell he cared a lot more about it than babies day out because at least he was making a sci-fi take on a family comedy and got to inject a lot of his own interests and personality.

    also i am currently pretty obsessed with indian movies, especially tollywood, so i am going to watch the telegu remake IMMEDIATELY.

  19. grimgrinningchris

    July 15th, 2024 at 4:19 pm

    I am one of the 8 people that saw Spaced Invaders in the theater.
    I haven’t seen it since at all. Not even on basic cable.

    It was a second run movie at the time and an excuse to make out with my freshman year ladyfriend in the dark in a mostly empty room.

    Literally the only thing I remember is the one with the Nicholson voice saying “we’d better get out of here before someone starts checking for green cards” which made both of us unlock lips and laugh.

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