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Casa De Los Babys

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Casa De Los Babys

Starring: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Marcia Gay Harden
Director: John Sayles
Rated: R
RunTime: 95 Minutes
Release Date: September 2003
Genres: Comedy, Drama

*Also starring: Mary Steenburgen, Lili Taylor, Daryl Hannah, Susan Lynch, Rita Moreno, Bruno Bichir, Angelina Pelaez, Vanessa Martinez, Juan Carlos Vives, Miguel Rodarte, David Hevia

Review by Steve Rhodes
2½ stars out of 4

John Sayles's CASA DE LOS BABYS is a preachy story about six neurotic, American women: Skipper (Daryl Hannah), Nan (Marcia Gay Harden), Gayle (Mary Steenburgen), Leslie (Lili Taylor), Jennifer (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and Eileen (Susan Lynch). They are all getting cranky, having spent a couple of months in hotel rooms while waiting for the bureaucrats of some unnamed Latin American country to approve their adoption of local babies.

The movie, which might work as a play, has two modes. In one, it keeps lecturing us about the pervasive poverty in this Spanish speaking country. The poorest kids steal out of necessity, and the slightly better off ones have to go to school wearing shoes that are too tight. We are provided with example after example in order to insure that we get the point. The pedantic picture also labors to show how these women, all but one of whom speak basically no Spanish, don't have a clue as to the dire situations of the local citizens.

The second, and much more effective mode, has the women engage in some insightful and frequently funny dialog. Taylor, as the only single mother-to-be, gets the lion's share of the script's best lines. "I've got sox older than you", she says in a put-down line to a young hunk who tries hitting on her at the beach. "I figure that if [my daughter] doesn't absolutely despise me by the eighth grade, I'm ahead of the game," Leslie tells Gayle. And, of the local television trash, she says to one of the other women, "You don't need the words to watch TV. Stupidity is the universal language."

If you weren't aware that Americans have a much higher standard of living than Latin Americans or if you just like being entertained with some witty dialog, CASA DE LOS BABYS is a reasonable choice. On the other hand, if you're looking for something truly worthy of being called a Sayles movie, just rent one of his older ones like LONE STAR.

CASA DE LOS BABYS runs 1:36. The film is in English and in Spanish with English subtitles. It is rated R for "some language and brief drug use" and would be acceptable for teenagers.

Copyright 2003 Steve Rhodes

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