Refusing to get drawn into distracting debates about the film’s politics, American Sniper audiences of every ideological stripe have come together to ask the question that really matters: What the hell was up with that fake baby? In one emotional scene in the film, Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller are forced to pretend that a plastic doll is their child, the sight of its its hard, lifeless body made all the more unsettling by the living human-baby noises in the sound mix. The reviews have been merciless:
- “It’s so obvious, and neither one of them looks like they are comfortable holding it. The weight’s all wrong, and it shows from the way they have to try to liven it up with their own body language. Cooper in particular looks like he’s just plain never held a baby.” —Hitfix
- “[Is it] a Brechtian thing?” —Shawn Levy
- “The babies’ noses are flawlessly buttony, their cheeks absolutely round, their tiny lips distended in an unachievable bow. The babies’ tans are even, and a perfect shade of sunkissed white skin. Their very existence, the upholding of these babies as somehow the way all babies should look, exerts undue pressure on actual live babies to live up to this type of unachievable ideal.” —Jezebel
- “Laughably fake.” —Film School Rejects
- “Jarringly fake … There’s just no excuse for that kind of bush-league nonsense.” —NewsOK
- “I have never seen so many terrible fake babies in one film.” —The Sunday Times
- “They’re conspicuously wobbling rather than moving, which makes the crying sound effects seem a bit eerily detached.” —The Telegraph
- “The girl next to me literally said ‘he’s holding a plastic baby’ and sure enough… I’m like WTF?” —Reddit user dippy12345
Why would an otherwise-competently made film include a creative decision this bad? In a since-deleted tweet, Sniper screenwriter Jason Hall explained:
hate to ruin the fun but real baby #1 showed up with a fever. Real baby #2 was no show. (Clint voice) Gimme the doll, kid.
It’s easy to empathize with Eastwood’s plight, but he should serve as a cautionary tale to future filmmakers: Never cast a plastic doll as a baby. Even if real babies are a pain to work with, don’t do it. Even if it’s getting late in the day, don’t do it. Just go the Twilight route and cast a CGI baby instead, or — even better — just write the baby out of the scene. How integral could it be? It’s a baby. Just don’t use a doll. Anything is better than dolls.