IN THE SAME WAY that March of the Penguins anthropomorphized penguins (they mate for life because they love each other!), the new documentary Babies effectively humanizes... babies. Sure, babies are technically "humans"—but they're also, to the uninitiated, irrational, confusing, and vaguely disgusting. (I'm not totally sure what "new baby smell" is, but I think it might be poop.) Babies provides a moms' eye view of four infants in four different countries: the US, Japan, Mongolia, and Namibia.
Babies (even cuter in French: Bébés) really only has one trick up its sleeve, but the cultural juxtaposition of adorable infants proves more than sufficient to sustain an 80-minute runtime. The Namibian baby plays in the dirt, while the San Francisco parents clean their baby with a lint roller. The Japanese baby throws a hilarious tantrum, affecting total disappointment with her many toys, while the Mongolian baby—roped to the bed so he can't wander off—gnaws happily on a roll of toilet paper.
These comparisons have the effect of jarring loose some cultural preconceptions about parenting. When the Mongolian mother hops on the back of a dirt bike with her newborn, it's a little shocking—and it colors a later scene, in which the bicycling San Francisco couple secures their baby in a bike trailer and shoves off into traffic. These decisions are equally practical or equally insane—you can't judge one without judging the other. (Though if any family warrants judging, it's the San Francisco couple, who are a walking, talking, propagating version of Stuff White People Like.)
Babies is hilarious and fascinating, if you're open to the idea of finding babies themselves hilarious and fascinating. Sure, it's like watching home movies for 80 minutes—but at least they're home movies with an eye-openingly global reach.