The Boss Baby, 2017.
Directed by Tom McGrath.
Featuring the voice talents of Alec Baldwin, Miles Christopher Bakshi, Steve Buscemi, Jimmy Kimmel, Lisa Kudrow, and Tobey Maguire.
A suit-wearing briefcase-carrying baby pairs up with his seven-year-old brother to stop the dastardly plot of the CEO of Puppy Co.
The Boss Baby has an overactive imagination that is on par with the mind of its familial love-craving leading child, 7-year old Tim. Even before he’s deep into a sibling rivalry with the titular boss baby, grand adventures take place inside his head that are colorfully brought to life, whether it be heroics with a dinosaur companion or battling atop an imagined pirate ship. There’s really no rhyme or reason to the aesthetic designs in these brief but pleasant escapes from reality, but signs of creativity are nonetheless appreciated, especially considering that none of these elements are present at all in the marketing.
Television ads make The Boss Baby out to be a lowest common denominator type of animated film that easily settles for cheap toilet humor, coasting along on the tried-and-true formula that dictates parents will bring their children to any garbage looking cartoon shenanigans just to keep them occupied for 90 minutes. Now, there definitely still are many cringe-inducing and flat-out lame attempts at humor here (there must be over five different scenes where the joke is simply “haha laugh at the sight of the baby’s ass!”, but some of this is mitigated by unique plot details. As always, the lesson here is to never judge a movie based on its marketing campaign.
The script from Michael McCullers (who has worked on some Austin Powers films and also has some experience in animation via screenplay touches on Mr. Peabody and Sherman) based on the book of the same name from Maria Frazee amusingly and inventively explains the age-old million dollar question of “where do babies come from” with an ethereal assembly line that gives newborns everything from binkies to diapers before they are chosen to either be destined for family life, or an eternal position as an infant at an all-baby corporate business specializing in analyzing data. Specifically, the young ones have a pie chart breaking down all the love in the world (dogs and babies make up the film’s second key rivalry). Unfortunately, it’s hard to say what else really goes on in these offices, as not much of this is fleshed out before nameless boss baby (for the sake of this review we’ll just refer to him as his voice actor Alec Baldwin) is dropped off by a taxi at Tim’s family doorstep on a top-secret mission to gain information regarding a special puppy project.
Naturally, Tim rejects the idea of having a baby brother (it means less attention and love to go around for him) and Baldwin isn’t enthused either, meaning that the basis of The Boss Baby is these two learning to get along and growing to like each other while partnering up for mutual reasons. Of course, there are also terrible puns everywhere such as “let’s discuss this over a bottle of milk”. Yes, there is a very safe and positive message here for children regarding embracing additional family members, but that’s no excuse for unsuccessfully being able to captivate adults and kids alike. Much of this animated feature just goes through the motions and is completely predictable for anyone over the age of 10.
It’s a shame that the overactive imagination aspects aren’t utilized more, or that the humor never really evolves beyond jokes specifically aimed at children (rather than painting broader strokes). A business trip to Las Vegas including some Elvis Presley impersonators is roughly the closest thing to a big laugh, but children will no doubt be entertained throughout from the silliness of things like babies gathering together to hold business meetings and battling beefcake male babysitters. Again, at least it is a harmless movie with good intentions for children.
It should also be noted that the voice work from notable actors such as Alec Baldwin (who is now providing his distinct voice to an animated character for the fifth time) is spot-on, nailing that super serious, droning deadpan office-type delivery. The same goes for young Miles Christopher Bakshi as Tim who does fine giving the kid a transformation arc from jealousy to befriending the brother he never knew he wanted. On the other hand, Jimmy Kimmel and Lisa Kudrow don’t really get much to do as the parents, and Steve Buscemi as the film’s villain is surprisingly disappointing.
This is no surprise seeing as The Boss Baby comes from DreamWorks Animation, but the level of detail in everything from characters (especially each cute strand of baby hair on Alec Baldwin’s head) to scenery backgrounds (most notably when the film decides to enter a fantasy realm of imagination) is top-notch quality. Unfortunately, director Tom McGrath’s (Megamind and the Madagascar franchise) feature is content with not striving for excellence, instead honing in on a very basic story and specific demographic of children. The Boss Baby is a poop-filled diaper, just one that doesn’t stink up the whole house.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★