The Legacy of Baby’s Day Out, the Only Comedy Movie I’ve Ever Walked Out On

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I have only walked out of two movies my entire life, and neither one of them was Theodore Rex. In November 1994, being the bad Jew that I am, I made my dad take seven-year-old me to go see Miracle on 34th Street. No, not a re-release of the original with Maureen O’Hara, but rather, the remake with Matilda and John “Spared No Expenses” Hammond. We left 30 minutes in because the movie was just so BORING, a very reasonable evaluation for someone my age at the time. It’s a two-hour, slow-paced movie, with an emotional climax involving In God We Trust. (Or so I’ve heard.)

I also saw Baby’s Day Out with my dad, because that’s what we did: we saw movies. He and my mom had gotten a divorce when I was 3, and I lived with her and saw him on the weekends. We would always see at least one film on Saturday, oftentimes at the New York State Museum in Albany, because of their weekly Kid Pixs program. It was the equivalent of going to a third-run movie theater, where films that had been out for weeks would screen at a discounted price. The reduced ticket cost is the only reason I don’t feel totally guilty about making my dad pay to see Blank Check, Monkey Trouble, 3 Ninjas Kick Back, and Camp Nowhere. We even saw Freddie the Frog, one of the lowest grossing kids’ movies of all-time. No one’s seen Freddie the Frog.

I remember literally nothing about Baby’s Day Out, other than I disliked it so much that I just had to leave. Was it scary? Was it Miracle on 34th Street-level boring? Was it too complex? Was the idea of a little baby crawling loose in the big city too much for my soon-to-be-scarred-from-Mufasa’s-death brain to handle? (The Lion King came out a week after Baby’s Day Out). I was seven at the time (July 1994), and loved similar baby-titled films, like Baby: Secret of the Dinosaurs (the scene where the dinosaur has the underwear on his head absolutely KILLED). To figure out this mystery that has haunted my existence for the past 17 years, I went back and re-watched the movie. And yup, it was BORING.

Baby’s Day Out was written by John Hughes (who also penned the screenplay to Miracle—damn you, Hughes!), and stars Joe “Fat Tony” Mantegna, Joe “Ralphie” Pantoliano, and Brian “No Nickname” Haley as a trio of thieves who hatch a plan to kidnap Baby Bink, because he has rich parents, played by Lara Flynn Boyle and Matthew Glave. Needless to say, their plans are thwarted, in the most Home Alone-esque ways possible, and Baby Bink crawls away, eventually onto a bus and later, into a department store.

That’s pretty much the entire plot of the movie. Baby Bink hangs out with some gorillas (not nearly as funny as it sounds), and the villains fall off buildings and into wet cement. So why was Baby’s Day Out so dull compared to Home Alone? First of all, it was just Home Alone but with a younger kid. A baby, actually, a baby who couldn’t talk back to his kidnappers or devise elaborate devices for them to get hit in the balls with. That’s the first misstep. The other: it’s so damn precious. There’s cutesy music throughout, and you never feel like anyone’s in any actual danger. There’s menace in Home Alone, because Marv and Harry are legitimately terrifying. Baby’s Day Out is like watching Benji right after you’ve seen Cujo; the stakes just aren’t as high.

Oh, and it cost $48 MILLION to make, which is twice as much as Speed and equivalent to The Flintstones and Forrest Gump. Thing is, those were all highly successful, huge grossing movies. Baby’s Day Out only made $16 million at the box office, making it 84th highest grosser of 1994; even Richie Rich made more. Its Rotten Tomatoes rating is 21%, and a planned video game adaptation was scrapped.

And yet, the movie has an oddly huge following — at least for a shitty movie about a baby. In an obituary written by Roger Ebert after Hughes passed away, the film critic wrote, “Once when I was visiting the largest movie theater in Calcutta, I asked if Star Wars had been their most successful American film. No, I was told, it was Baby’s Day Out…which played for more than a year.” (Ebert hated the movie, and got into an argument with Gene Siskel, who gave it a Thumbs Up.) Baby’s was even remade twice, once into Sisindri, released in India in 1995, and four years later, James Bond (seriously), a “Malayalam language comedy film directed by Baiju Kottarakkara,” but you probably knew that already.

The IMDb page for Baby’s Day Out is also a cultural hot spot, including an entire thread about “what the *beep* is so funny about seeing a guy getting his nuts pummeled violently” that’s been going on for SIX YEARS. Things get REAL, too: in June 2011, ellipsis-loving user oender-oezgeday wrote (sic’d), “Yes it is a feminist and man-hating society. More and more…If a man is hurt, it is funny. Ohhh don’t complain and whine..be a man about it…as far as the crotch humour….what about circumcision? A woman will always be protected from that but if you are born a man…someone else has the right to decide over your genitals and cut pieces of it away…and it is acceptable….”

This bears repeating: that comment is in the thread for Baby’s Day Out, a movie where one character actually says, “If you want to be a shoplifter, go to JCPenney”; a movie whose keywords on IMDb include “Kid Outsmarts Adult,” “Stupidity,” and “Gorilla”; a movie where in his Hollywood debut, Verne Troyer, Mini Me himself, is the stunt double for Baby Bink.

A few days ago, I asked my dad why we left the movie early, and he said, “I can’t remember. Probably you were just bored.” He then added, “Do you remember Cop and a Half, with Burt Reynolds and a small black child? [Note: I do not] We started to walk out, but then you changed your mind —wisely, I thought— when the kid emptied a net loaded with freshly caught fish on the heads of the bad guys. Laurel and Hardy, move over.”

What comedies have you walked out of you? Have you ever rewatched them, and thought they were better or somehow even worse? Tell us in the comments. And if you walked out of Saving Silverman, you’re WRONG.

Josh Kurp apologizes to any Baby’s Day Out enthusiasts.