The Next Reel's episode on Amy Heckerling's 1989 romantic comedy Look Who's Talking

Look Who’s Talking

Fifth of five in our ‘80s Comedy with Coolidge & Heckerling’ series. Amy Heckerling returns to personal filmmaking but does it in a broad romantic comedy. We close out the series with a conversation about her most successful film.

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"So you’re the one that’s been kicking me.”

How Does Heckerling’s Biggest Hit Hold Up 30+ Years Later?

It’s funny looking back on writer/director Amy Heckerling’s 1989 romantic comedy Look Who’s Talking now and thinking that studios thought it was too sexual for the genre or that women couldn’t carry a comedy like this. Heckerling has said that she had to pitch the film as a talking baby voiced by a hot male comic because of that fact. Remembering that it was the 80s perhaps is all the reminder we need as to why she struggled to find a studio for the film. But the president of Tri-Star saw Heckerling’s ‘quirky, offbeat sense’ and greenlit the film. Lucky for all of them, it was a huge hit that led to a very successful franchise. Join us – Pete Wright and Andy Nelson – as we wrap up our ‘80s Comedy with Coolidge & Heckerling’ series with Heckerling’s 1989 romantic comedy Look Who’s Talking.

Mikey’s not the only one talking. We’ve clearly got a few things to say about Look Who’s Talking.

What about the movie makes it feel dated? There are definitely some derogatory comments that people just wouldn’t say today, but there’s more to it than that. Is it how Kirstie Alley’s Molly tells everyone that she was artificially inseminated instead of coming clean about accidentally getting pregnant? Should she have had more agency and just admitted that she accidentally got pregnant? Does that feel dated, or is that relevant still today? Maybe it’s that people were so surprised by a working, single woman deciding to raise a child on her own. Between this and Baby Boom it was definitely a topic at the time. We bat around a few ideas but never quite agree on why some of the elements feel dated.

One thing that certainly doesn’t feel dated is the relationship between Molly and John Travolta’s James. They’re a delightful pair and we love the chemistry they clearly have on screen. The movie also doesn’t feel like it has to rush with their relationship. In the realm of romantic comedies, this works well.

Pete really struggles with the talking baby conceit though. Why is it in here? It’s a fun element that, when paired with Molly’s fantastical dreams and visions throughout the film, lend the movie a sense of fantasy that we don’t often see in romantic comedies. We like that they’re doing something different with the genre here. But Bruce Willis as the baby? Pete never can quite come to terms with it, whereas Andy doesn’t find any problems with it. We think largely it’s one of those things you either can buy into or can’t when you sit down to watch the film.

But what about Heckerling’s script? Do we like Molly’s and James’ meet-cute in the taxi cab? It has its issues, largely centered around the silly race through the city to get Molly to the hospital in time. What about the way Heckerling comes up with to keep James in Molly’s life after that initial meeting? This is a potential problem for some because of the way he lies to use her mailbox for grandpa’s residency, but they both handle the element realistically and because of that, we buy into it.

But speaking of grandpa, it’s a toothless Abe Vigoda! This is an interesting part of the script because it gives us the conclusion of the film, and to that end actually delivers on something we buy into.

What we have a harder time buying into is the way James sabotages one of Molly’s dates. Why? The date is clearly a schlub and she won’t end up with him. Does he do it just for fun? We’re not really sure.

One thing we are sure of is how great Heckerling is at putting amazing soundtracks together. The music in this film is eminently listenable.

Something that may not hold up as well as the music selections – the kinda creepy fetus puppet we see before Mikey’s born. It’s kinda fun but those eyes… yeah… just a bit creepy…

What was it about this film that drew so many people in at the time? It was successful enough for them to greenlight two sequels and a TV show. Our recollection of the subsequent films is thin but it’s hard to get people to realize just how massively this film was at the time.

We have a great time talking about this film, which may be our least favorite in this series thus far but was still an entertaining watch and a welcome entry into the show. Check it out then tune in to hear all of these thoughts and more. The Next Reel – when the movie ends, our conversation begins!

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