Film Review – The Boss Baby
The Boss Baby
A searing indightment of the current political process, a trenchant character study, and an enlightening profile of a Real Estate magnate with no political experience rising to the highest office in the country, the new documentary about Donald Trump entitled Boss Baby…
No, as apt as that title would be, the main thing that the new Dreamwork Animation movie Boss Baby has in common with our President is that they are both fictionally voiced by Alec Baldwin. This animated combination of Stewie Griffin and a business tycoon is much more level headed than our Commander in Chief.
The movie is narrated by Tim as voiced by Tobey Maguire. Tim as an only child has the perfect life getting all of the needed attention from his dutiful parents (Jimmy Kimmel and Lisa Kudrow). But after a brief precredits preamble which sets the tone that we will be experiencing this tale through Tim’s POV, his parents reveal that he should expect a new baby brother. Along comes the titular character which is a play on the fact that life with a newborn makes him the boss of the household. Harried parents tending to midnight feedings and temper tantrums end up ceding control to the baby. Tim discovers that the baby can talk, wears a suit, and was actually sent from Babycorp which is the company up in the sky that sends us all of the babies in the world. He’s here to oversee a ratcheting up of cuteness amongst babies because puppies have been stealing all of their thunder lately.
Most of the fun of this movie comes from the rapid and surreal takes on what’s happening as seen by Tim. This whole movie is like a feature length version of a Ralph Phillips story from Looney Tunes. That was the kid who daydreamed all sorts of adventures being a fighter pilot or General Macarthur and so on. Tim is very similar in his Walter Mitty-esque imaginings that conflate everyday happenings with fantastical missions. At one point he imagines both his brother and he as pirates making people walk the plank or a high speed chase where the Boss Baby is trying to run him down with his toy car (which objectively from his parents’s point of view looks like gentle playtime together). This imagination is the movie’s greatest asset. It allows for high energy and subjective animated sequences that aren’t tethered to reality. That’s a frequent mistake in computer animation, the desire to make everything photo realistic. The beauty of animation is the subjectivity of the images and being able to filter a cartoon through exaggerated filmmaking. Yes, there are similar story beats to Toy Story so the plot feels familiar. But the jokes involving an office full of babies that have to take simultaneous power naps in their cubicles and desks populated by Fischer Price toy versions of office equipment are fun. And though it’s an obvious metaphor, the temperment of a baby as filtered through a CEO does work.
Also, Dreamworks’ tendency to drop tired pop culture references is kept to a minimum. There is a joke used in the trailers even where Alec Baldwin’s voice commands another baby to “Put that cookie down! Cookies are for Closers!” But thankfully the film doesn’t get overrun with that sort of thing. Nothing dates a movie faster than annoying usage of “Say hello to my little friend!” or “You the man!” or somesuch other incredibly unfunny reference.
The first half of Boss Baby is better than the second. The movie does devolve into a couple of hyperkinetic chases that we’ve seen in animated movies far too often. There are of course scatalogical jokes and cute baby butts featured. And the whole movie doesn’t tend to last too long in the memory. But there are far worse kids’ movies in the world and it’s not actively irritating like some of those can be. Though not as great as most of Pixar‘s fare, this movie is better than it looks from the outside. For a mild entertainment with some periodically funny jokes, Boss Baby does the job.