The Boss Baby

My brother Marty is three years younger than me and I remember his arrival being a wonderful time of change in my life. Believing that “the stork” had made a delivery, I was delighted by the new presence in our home. From the very beginning, I was so fond of him, I used to climb into his crib and sleep next to him. My other favorite, early memory of Marty was finding him awake by himself in our living room the morning after we opened Christmas presents. He was six years old, had a cluster of books spread out on the floor and was taking the time to read each one. I remember catching him doing this and thinking, “What a neat kid.” I loved being a big brother and still do. Yet, I understand how some kids can get territorial and downright resentful of a tiny, crying, attention hog.

The Boss Baby, the new comedy from Dreamworks Animation, addresses the shock of being an only child, having a well established pattern and relationship with your parents, then seeing that turned upside down when a newborn arrives. It also bombards the viewer with poop and fart jokes and is never as funny as it should be.

Based on Marla Frazee’s 2013 children’s book, The Boss Baby has a such a strange plot, describing it sounds like recollecting a bizarre dream. According to this movie, babies are assembled in Heaven by factory machines, which diaper and prep them for life on Earth. If a baby is ticklish, it’s sent to live with humans. However, if a baby is tickled and doesn’t laugh, it must work in a Management workplace, doing bureaucratic work in a cubicle. The Boss Baby (voice by Alec Baldwin) is one such infant, who has the body of a tyke but dresses in a suit, carries a briefcase and, well, sounds like Alec Baldwin. For reasons that are truly strange (something involving the name of a puppy), The Boss Baby goes undercover as a real baby. Tim, an only child, is immediately suspicious of his new baby brother, who dresses like a yuppie and is clearly up to no good.

It’s touted as coming from “the studio that brought you Shrek and Madagascar,” which should be taken as a warning. The first Shrek is wonderful but those sequels and most other CGI animated Dreamworks comedies aren’t. The Boss Baby often resorts to the same kind of lowbrow, anything-for-a-cheap-laugh mentality of the Ice Age sequels or Despicable Me movies. There’s a big difference between family movies and movies that were made strictly for kids. Most of The Boss Baby is babysitter fodder, though it occasionally wants to be more than that.

Too much of this is obviously trying to be a Pixar movie. The general set-up and subsequent scenes are right out of Toy Story. The introduction of the Boss Baby as a domestic disruption and his initial game of one-upmanship with Tim plays like the Woody/Buzz rivalry and eventual friendship. There’s even a chase through a suburban street, just like the one in the first Toy Story.

Baldwin is in good form, but it’s hard to figure out what drew him to this (and no, there’s no correlation between his turn as the Boss Baby and his much discussed recurring portrayal as President Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live). I also wonder why Tobey Maguire (who does a so-so job as the narrator), Steve Buscemi (voicing the underwhelming heavy), Lisa Kudrow and Jimmy Kimmel (voicing Tim’s clueless parents) wanted to be in this.

I laughed a few times, there are some lovely visuals (even if the animation isn’t top tier) and the score by Hans Zimmer and Steve Mazzaro is superb. There are a few touching moments, kids will have a blast and I liked the ending but please, oh please, no Boss Baby 2.

Two Stars

originally published in Maui Time Weekly