Featuring the Voices of: Alec Baldwin, Miles Bakshi, Steve Buscemi, Jimmy Kimmel, Lisa Kudrow, Conrad Vernon, Tobey Maguire, James McGrath, ViviAnn Yee.
Director: Tom McGrath
Rating: PG (for some mild rude humor.)
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Date: March 30, 2017
DreamWorks Animation and 20th Century Fox.
Written by: Michael McCullers, based on the book “The Boss Baby” by Marla Frazee.
Probably best we just dive right into the premise of the odd and downright puzzling new animated kid’s movie, The Boss Baby.
So here goes…
A 7-year-old boy named Tim (Miles Bakshi) is content living with his parents (Jimmy Kimmel, Lisa Kudrow) and they have a wonderful relationship. When they try and share with him that they are pregnant, he doesn’t pick up on the hints and tells his parents he’s fine with things just they way they are. A few months later, a suit-wearing newborn is delivered to Tim’s doorstep and Mom and Dad introduce the baby as his new baby brother. Tim is rattled, but the baby could not be more adorable.
Tim soon learns that the baby actually talks like an adult (voiced by Alec Baldwin) and essentially seems like a grown man trapped inside a baby’s body. The baby, or the proverbial “Boss Baby,” is actually an employee of BabyCorp, a company that apparently makes, manufactures, and distributes newborn human babies (?). Boss Baby is on a secret mission for the company, investigating why families want fewer babies and are adopting more puppies. Complicating matters, Tim’s parents are executives with PuppyCo, a company that attempts to find the right dog for the right family. PuppyCo is unveiling a brand new puppy (??) to the marketplace and BabyCorp sees this as the death knell for families wanting babies.
Read that again. I will wait. We good?
It’s okay, I honestly don’t quite get it either.
The Boss Baby is a strange, peculiar film, borne from a popular 36-page picture book by children’s author Marla Frazee. The screenplay by Michael McCullers goes much, much further with the concept Frazee presented, i.e. a newborn baby’s needs and wants emulate a constant need for meetings and demands. The analogies write themselves, but McCullers and director Tom McGrath (the Madagascar films, Megamind) take things in a wildly different direction and the film holds almost no common sense.
McCullers writes the film from the perspective of Tim, the 7-year-old jilted big brother (voiced by Tobey Maguire in narration as an adult), who sees the unnamed “Boss” ruling the home, transacting his business, and trying to keep his secrets hidden from Mom and Dad. And as fantastical as all of this can be, there are just things here that cannot be ignored. For example, we open with a look at how BabyCorp decides which babies become the babies who live with families and which ones work in BabyCorp’s corporate office.
And yes…there is a BabyCorp corporate headquarters that looks like it exists in Heaven.
Awkward as that may be for some viewers, Mom’s pregnancy bump vanishes when “Boss Baby” arrives. And so, what does that mean?
Let’s be clear here: this is The Boss Baby and it’s animated fantasy not meant to be taken literally. On the other hand, kids with siblings, or those who understand how babies are made, are going to have a tough time processing this movie’s weird workaround for all of this. It’s kinda weird, you guys.
Even if we buy into the notion that babies are magically manufactured in the sky and most will descend to Earth-bound families, while others become corporate employees for the rest of their life, the apparent decision is based on how you respond to being tickled by a feather. If you laugh or giggle, Earth. If you are not ticklish, BabyCorp.
Of course, this allows us scenes where Tim tries to connect with his Boss Baby brother and the brothers eventually try and form a bond. Banking on Baldwin’s ability to deliver lines with charisma and flair, we get a few laughs and the movie is never really boring. However, what’s here, is barely enough of a story for a feature-length film. The entire “Babies vs. Puppies” subplot is just as daft and baffling as you might imagine and though the film is visually appealing, it is mostly an empty-headed experience.
Visually, The Boss Baby is wonderfully rendered, easy enough to watch and admittedly, the character is kind of adorable. On a basic level, it is easy to understand how Frazee’s book became a frequent gift at baby showers soon after its 2010 release. And quite honestly, I kind of love the idea of the weathered, whip-smart Baldwin lending his voice to a pint-size, suit-wearing, infant’s animated body.
As a movie, The Boss Baby just doesn’t work. We get a movie that tells us we should learn to find love for others beyond ourselves (good…), people wanting puppies might become a threat to procreation (um…), and babies who are not ticklish must lack joy, do not deserve families, and are destined to work in a corporate setting for literally their entire life (hold up…what?!).
Great! Who wants more popcorn?
SHOULD I SEE IT?
- I will say this. The Boss Baby is one of the more original concepts brought to screen in recent memory*.
- Alec Baldwin’s voice is kind of awesome in the role of a grown-up talking baby person-thing in a suit.
- McGrath’s team did a marvelous job with animating the film and The Boss Baby is very well made from a technical standpoint.
- *I will say this. The Boss Baby is one of the more original concepts brought to screen in recent memory. However, if you try and explain it to someone, their eyes start to spin and they cock their head like the puppies who are apparently threatening all of humanity.
- Languishes and never breaks through. Occasional chuckles only carry you so far and The Boss Baby just misfires constantly.
- Why does Tim have a Gandalf-like Wizard alarm clock that apparently shows elements of being sentient, even when not in Tim’s imagined fantasy mind?