The Boss Baby (dir. Tom McGrath)

Posted: April 5, 2017 in Uncategorized

“‘The Boss Baby’? More like the Bad Movie Baby.” – Carson McLendon

“The Boss Baby” can’t decide if it wants to be a clever, adult-friendly kids movie drawing a direct line between narcissistic middle management and the demanding human ID that is the infant, or a stupid movie for the youngest of child audiences with the most immature and obvious toilet humor designed to make a four-year-old laugh that you could possibly imagine. The result is a movie that isn’t enough of either. You have references to “Glengarry Glen Ross” next to jokes about farting, infant-butt-slapping, infant-butt-sniffing, and the threat of a pacifier being inserted in any infant’s butt. At least half of the jokes in the movie are about baby ass, which is far too many for a movie that is trying to thread the needle between the kind of kids movie that parents enjoy alongside their children and the kind of kids movie the parents spend their time checking their phone during.

The plot involves Timothy, narrating from the future (Tobey Maguire). Timothy is the only child to two very loving and hands-on parents (Lisa Kudrow and Jimmy Kimmel) who read him multiple stories and sing him a Beatles song before he goes to bed every night. He’s also got a very active imagination, which only confuses the narrative by making you question if the Boss Baby (Alec Baldwin) is actually a secret manager from a baby-run business, or if the entire film is just Timothy (voiced as a child by Miles Christopher Bakshi) creating the scenario to cope with all of the attention going to a new baby. This could have been an interesting plot device, but the film makes it clear very early on that it’s the former, so I’m not sure why the device is even introduced to begin with. A sight gag involving Timothy hanging on to one of those cars that a baby can peddle from the inside and how the adults view this in contrast to how the kids view it ends up making no sense because of this, despite being a funny cut away.

The parents bring home the be-suited Boss Baby, and Timothy is very upset that the attention gets pulled away from him. He soon discovers Baby can talk is actually on a mission to infiltrate the parents’ workplace, a corporation called Puppy Co. which seems to exist to push the idea of people adopting puppies in lieu of having babies or other pets, and prevent them from unveiling a new designer dog breed so cute that babies will be supplanted as everyone’s favorite cute accessory. As someone who had a vasectomy to specifically make sure he never has children, I am genuinely wondering if there is any competition in the real world between babies and puppies with regard to which most people prefer. Hell, I’m a cat person. Babies are pretty low on my list of cute things I want in my home.

Anyway, Baby doesn’t want to stay in the family any more than Timothy wants him to stay, so they team up to stop Puppy Co. so that Baby can return to his company, where babies drink a special formula to never grow up but still somewhat age intellectually as they lobby the world for babies.

This concept has potential, and some of the plot holes (the mom is pregnant, so how did Boss Baby get from the corporation to inside her womb to be born? Did Boss Baby abort the real fetus? If babies are delivered via conveyor belt, how does that jive with pregnancy and our real world process of reproduction?) can be pushed aside under the defense that this is a cartoon meant for kids. The problem is that this film, unlike those by Pixar or some other companies, doesn’t know how to make a good grown up story that is also accessible to kids. Or, conversely, how to make a silly and fun kids cartoon that offers emotional or intellectual meat for the adults. A clever story bit or a piece of satire in once scene is drowned out by a stream of obvious, unfunny sophomoric humor an additional 10 times in that scene. I can forgive the lack of world building and the schizophrenic tonal shifts if the movie were simply funny enough to make up for its flaws, but the vast majority of the gags fall flat on their face.

I wasn’t expecting an astute satire of Capitalism or office culture in this film, but I at least expected it to be at the low level of, say, “The Belko Experiment” from earlier this month. “The Boss Baby” does nothing with a gangbusters concept and doesn’t engage in enough world building for it either. Remember how “Monsters Inc.” did a great job of creating a whole new world that was centered around a fictional corporation adjacent to our world? “The Boss Baby” fails where that earlier Pixar film succeeded. Other movies prove that the problems “The Boss Baby” exhibits are fixable, but the filmmakers just didn’t want to. As a result, nice voice performances by Alec Baldwin and Steve Buscemi (as the film’s villain, a former baby executive turned adult) are wasted in an unfunny cartoon that, to be honest, i dozed off during the third act of.

Bad movie baby indeed. C-

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