By Jack Dignan
It’s weird that we live in a world in which The Boss Baby exists. What’s weirder is the fact that I kinda liked The Boss Baby. Wait, no, can I rephrase that? Saying I ‘liked’ The Boss Baby feels like an overstatement. It was more along the lines of ‘I didn’t hate myself while watching it.’ The latest animation from DreamWorks, famed creators of Shrek and still running high on their recent success with Trolls, never matches the heights of their best efforts. But with that being said, it doesn’t quite reach the lows of some of their previous works, either. It’s the middle ground, a film that’s neither remarkable nor excruciating. It’s just a movie that happens to exist.
Using the children’s book of the same as inspiration, The Boss Baby follows the story of seven and a half year old Tim (Miles Christopher Bakshi). Tim is living a perfect life with his two perfect parents, played by Lisa Kudrow and TV host Jimmy Fallon. Everything is going flawlessly, spending his days acting out his wildest imaginations. That is until a newborn baby is welcomed into the family, dressed in a suit and carrying a briefcase at all times. The baby has their entire family wrapped around his little fingers, nobody able to see him for who he really is. Nobody except Tim.
When snooping late at night, Tim barges into the baby’s room, only to find his suspicions proven true. His younger brother can, in fact, talk. Now voiced by Alec Baldwin, who many have joked is reprising his role as Donald Trump from Saturday Night Live in this movie, this baby is up to something, and Tim is determined to put a stop to it. Gaining help from his neighbouring baby buddies, the Boss Baby, as he’s called, is on a mission to bring balance to the amount of love babies are receiving. They have, in recent years, been out-loved by puppies, and the Boss Baby has been assigned to bring this to an end. And he’s going to need Tim’s help if he hopes to achieve this.
This is a movie that should’ve been terrible. The premise, I will admit, is all sorts of stupid. Plot has never been one of DreamWorks’ strong suits, and the same fault is carried over here. It ranges from generic to shallow to somewhat creative and then bounces right back to being generic and shallow again. Alec Baldwin serving as the voice of a suit wearing baby is an idea I am 100% for. What goes with that is a story that’s touching and meaningful, more so for younger audiences than for the teenage and above demographic, but ultimately predictable and formulaic. Talking babies isn’t something I’d necessarily describe as new or original, but neither is a new Alien film and I’m pumped out of my mind for Alien: Covenant. Weird comparison, I know, but it’s the first film that sprung to mind.
Strong themes and messages for families are integrated into a mix of harmless gags and mature references that feel drastically out of place. While other DreamWorks films such as Shrek integrate adult humour seamlessly and subtly, The Boss Baby doesn’t. There are glimmers of it throughout, and it just doesn’t work. A scene in which the Boss Baby yells as Tim to “suck it harder” feels enormously out of place. Adults aren’t necessarily going to fall in love with The Boss Baby. Catering humour for them does little outside of bogging the film down and sending young audiences into a confused state of mind. Shockingly, it’s when this film does embrace its kiddy nature where the best moments are brought to life.
While the core plot is full of plot holes and inconsistencies, as well as a doltish villain played by Steve Buscemi, it’s the little moments that prove to be the best parts of the film. Small embraces between Tim and his brother will hit home with kids expecting siblings, and maybe even parents of siblings, too. Their imaginative and colourful play sequences, especially one that takes place on a pirate ship, are joy, if not somewhat less impactful than intended. But the same can be said for this entire movie. Everything feels so flat. Events happen with little resonance. Even the opening title card feels awkward, floating in with little care and leaving much the same. Narration is tacked on in an attempt to give the film an extra layer towards the third act, but this layer is predictable for older audiences, and an aspect of the film that little kids won’t even pick up on.
The Boss Baby is harmless, colourful fun for the family that’s far from great, but not nearly as excruciating as you’d think when going in. When it works, the film is bouncy and moving. When it doesn’t, there’s a whole lot of animated baby butt close ups followed by frequent vomiting gags. The ending gets needlessly drawn out, and there’s a whole lot of silly to be found, especially the mind numbing scenes involving Steve Buscemi’s character, but if you’re going to take your kids to see something these school holidays, there are worse things to see.
2 1/2 Stars
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