Brow Beat

Sony Is Rebooting the Look Who’s Talking Franchise

Jason Schaller holds an icepack to John Travolta's forehead in a still from Look Who's Talking.
Look who’s getting rebooted!

As Maggie Thatcher famously remarked, the problem with running an entertainment industry based entirely on rebooting old franchises is that eventually you run out of other people’s ideas. Or at least other people’s good ideas: According to Deadline, Sony’s Screen Gems label is planning to bring back the Look Who’s Talking franchise. Jeremy Garelick has been chosen to write and direct the new film, and as with his last movie The Wedding Ringer, is planning to employ a diverse cast for this updated version.

The last Look Who’s Talking film was released more than 25 years ago, and it can be hard for people who weren’t exactly the wrong age at exactly the wrong time to grasp the sheer horror of the family films of the era. You can read the sentence “Bruce Willis plays the voice of the wisecracking baby,” but it’s just a meaningless collection of words until you experience it for yourself. As a taste, here’s the theatrical trailer for the first film in the franchise, from Clueless and Fast Times at Ridgemont High director Amy Heckerling:

That was the highest-grossing movie in the United States of America for five weeks in a row in the fall of 1989. (Eddie Murphy’s Harlem Nights finally unseated it.) During Look Who’s Talking’s box office reign, both Parenthood and Uncle Buck were also in the top ten, so it was truly a golden age for adults wrangling children to go see comedies about adults wrangling children. In just a little over a year, Heckerling had a sequel in theaters, adding Roseanne Barr and Damon Wayans to the Look Who’s Talking family. Things did not improve:

Joan Rivers reportedly turned down Roseanne Barr’s role, and the first trailers billed Richard Pryor in the part ultimately played by Wayans, but you rush your Look Who’s Talking sequel to theaters with the cast you have, not the cast you want. By now, you’re probably wondering if there was ever a network sitcom spinoff in which Tony Danza voiced a baby. There sure was! In the spring of 1991, ABC introduced the world to Baby Talk, with Julia Duffy as Danza’s mother. (The network had been planning to introduce the world to Baby Talk in the fall of 1990, but Connie Sellecca, originally cast in the lead role, quit after taping a few episodes.) The Julia Duffy version of Look Who’s Talking lasted only half a season—despite featuring a young George Clooney—and nearly the entire cast was fired over the summer when the show’s setting was relocated to Manhattan. Here are the opening credits from that version, complete with vintage ads and an ABC promo for Baby Talk featuring Mark Linn-Baker and Bronson Pinchot. This is what television looked like in 1991:

A vast wasteland! In 1993, Heckerling wisely handed the franchise off to Tom Ropelewski and went off to make her masterpiece, Clueless. Ropelewski, on the other hand, didn’t direct another movie for 17 years. His entry in the franchise added Danny DeVito, Diane Keaton, and jokes about dogs having sex.

These movies are the main reason Quentin Tarantino got credit for “rediscovering” John Travolta in 1994’s Pulp Fiction, and that is probably the longest cultural shadow they cast until word of this upcoming reboot arrived. We’re probably getting more Look Who’s Talking. Can Problem Child be far behind?