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Review: “The Boss Baby” Stands on Its Own Two Feet

by on March 31, 2017
 

The Boss BabyBabies are loud, irrational, and demanding of time. A stereotypical boss is loud, irrational, and demanding of time. A baby runs a household just like a boss runs a company. You know what would be funny? If a baby actually dressed and acted like a boss but was still a baby. That’s the thought process that gives us The Boss Baby. Granted, it was based off a book of the same name by Marla Frazee, but something about that concept made DreamWorks Animation think it had cinematic potential. Sure, babies are funny: they drool and poop and are a goldmine for crude humor, but to keep that going for a whole movie, it helps to set up a contrast where the baby is the most intelligent, dignified character in the whole movie. The Boss Baby does have some bizarre internal logic going on, but other than that, the story isn’t bad, and it doesn’t forget the heart.

The movie is told from the perspective of seven year old Tim Templeton, a happy kid whose imagination leads him to dream up many adventures, often involving his parents. Tim loves his family, and his life is perfect. Naturally, when they ask him if he wants a baby sibling, he politely declines, not realizing that his mother is already pregnant. Enter the Boss Baby (that’s actually what he’s called, since apparently the parents never got around to giving him a name), who exits a taxi dressed in a suit and carrying a briefcase, strolling right into Tim’s life to make it a complete nightmare.

Outside of a vague throwaway joke, this movie cheerfully ignores the actual science behind where babies come from and instead offers the idea that babies are manufactured by some big company in the sky. Each baby is tickled, and if it laughs, it gets sent to a family. Those that don’t laugh are given a desk job and fed baby formula that keeps them young and intelligent. Much of this feels like one of Tim’s fantasies, making Boss Baby out as an enemy come to steal his parents’ time and affection. But no, Boss Baby talks to his superiors on a phone, and Tim gets wind of the truth. The Templetons work at a pet company, and Boss Baby has been sent to gather information about puppies, the enemies of babies (it’s a cuteness thing). Once that’s done, Boss Baby will leave the family and get a promotion. This is great news to Tim, who wants the baby gone, so they team up to help Boss Baby complete his mission.

The Boss BabyDirector Tom McGrath, who has previously worked on some of the Madagascar movies, is no newcomer to DreamWorks Animation, but this movie is unique in that it’s characters are almost entirely human (outside of the aforementioned puppies and a hilarious wizard alarm clock Tim imagines as his number one advice giver), even if they are still cartoons. Eyes are a bit wider and the baby’s smirk is a bit smirkier, but these characters hare held to definite limitations that cartoon animals often aren’t. The rules of what the characters can and can’t do adds to the humor, as Tim goes on a real adventure and soon realizes that he lacks a few skills, such as not being able to ride a bike without training wheels. Boss Baby himself relies on Tim for many simple tasks.

Alec Baldwin is perfectly cast as Boss Baby, bringing all the humor found in his authoritative voice used previously with 30 Rock’s Jack Donaghy and his chillingly accurate portrayal of this nation’s president on Saturday Night Live. Steve Buscemi is a natural choice for the creepy and yet still amusing villain. Toby Maguire provides the adult narration of Tim while an actual child voices him, which is a smart choice. Jimmy Kimmel and Lisa Kudrow are somewhat wasted as the parents; only an adult who is familiar with the actors would be expecting more from them, and kids in the audience wouldn’t care.

The Boss BabyThe humor in this movie is fairly strong. It’s not all gross-out baby humor. For sure, baby bodily fluids freely fly all over the place at certain points, but The Boss Baby doesn’t entirely rely on that, leaning much more heavily on the comedic duo of the two would-be brothers. Tim, physically older by many years, actually thinks like a child, while Boss Baby thinks like a rational adult while sometimes nodding off and having baby-like outbursts. It never gets too out-there with the fantasy or unrealistic element (although I do question the use of some of the other babies in the neighborhood who work for Boss Baby, who clearly aren’t as intelligent as he is). The backstory of the movie may be weird, but it knows how to pull back and show what these characters are going through. Tim who is just a kid worried about losing his parents and Boss Baby comes to wonder if he really wants that promotion, knowing it will mean missing out on a childhood.

The movie surprisingly has a lot of heart, to the point where the ending is stretched out longer than I expected, letting all those emotions really sink in. It really does earn those moments at the end, though. Tim is a strong character that the audience can really relate to, so despite the absurd idea presented forth about babies living the corporate life, The Boss Baby manages to hit the right notes where it comes to family and emotion.

The Boss Baby opens Friday, March 31, 2017

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