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DIRECTED BY: Tim Lightell
FEATURING: Asa Fager, Sidney Jayne Hunt, Anya Maria Johnson, Cherilynn Brooks, Alice Bridgforth, Tom Stewart
PLOT: A comedian whose gimmick is dressing up like a baby pretends a magic potion has turned him into a real infant to try to ignite his wife’s motherhood instincts.
COMMENTS: The adult baby diaper lover (ABDL) community may be one of the most misunderstood and maligned group of fetishists in existence today. At a surface glance, to many outsiders, the idea of adults role-playing while dressing up in diapers and baby bonnets hews uncomfortably close to pedophilia. Diaper devotees vigorously deny the connection, arguing their passion is instead about a desire to regress to an infantile state to escape adult responsibility (although there is frequently, if not inevitably, a sexual component to the experience). Clinical practitioners agree that there is no significant crossover between ABDL behavior and pedophilia, but most people’s instinctual response to this lifestyle is discomfort, if not outright disgust.
For better or worse, Manbaby isn’t the Glen or Glenda? of the adult diaper lover community. You will find no impassioned pleas for tolerance here, no omniscient Hungarian narrators demanding to “pull the string!” In fact, if you were unaware of this fetish community altogether, you might think Manbaby is just a weirdly conceived switcheroo comedy, an age-based variant on gender-swap movies like Switch. The sexual elements of the lifestyle are referenced as obliquely as possible. Sal, our paunchy, bearded, and tattooed hero, just happens to find himself frequently wearing diapers for reasons totally unrelated to personal gratification: first, as a job, and then as part of a harebrained scheme to trick his wife into having a baby. The result is an innocent, conventionally structured relationship comedy that could at times almost play like a Disney film, but with odd, paraphiliac preoccupations poking their little heads through the straight-laced fabric. For example, a line like “babies don’t poop on walls, they poop in diapers” is not the snatch of conversation you’d expect to overhear at a bar on Friday night. The opportunities baby Sal takes to conspicuously play with the barefoot feet of his mom and babystitter raise an eyebrow. Someone spray-paints the word “CUCK” on a Manbaby promotional poster, at a time Sal’s wife is considering infidelity. There are also a lot of lesbians in the film, many dressing like greasers in leather jackets; at one point a gang of them mugs our hero. The attempt to pursue a mainstream narrative, while a stream of polymorphous perversity gurgles quietly through the narrative, makes for an uneven comedy that is nevertheless quite watchable.
And after all of this, the film takes one final left turn in the third act, abandoning comedy entirely and flash-forwarding into a melancholy future coda of old age and dementia. The final words are a bitterly whispered “it’s a farce”: referring, it seems, to the fact that people are privileged to wear diapers at the very beginning and the very end of life, but it’s taboo to enjoy them in your prime. A strange moral for a movie that, however hard it tries to present its characters as harmless and normal, simply can’t help but follow its own freakiness all the way to the end.
Unfortunately, the movie is currently only available for rental on Vimeo on Demand for $8.99 for 48 hours, a venue and price point that will keep casual viewers away. As a bonus, the rental includes 20 minutes of Kickstarter promos (filmed over 8 years!), which are actually parodies of Kickstarter promos, and which are at least as funny and arguably more clever than the finished feature.