Based on the children’s book by Marla Frazee, Dreamwork Animation’s newest film The Boss Baby seemed to be a clever premise. Unfortunately, adapting a book proved to difficult for the writers. Madagascar director Tom McGrath cannot bring the same magic to a human story as he does an animal one. Honestly, it feels a lot like 2001 film Cats & Dogs (which McGrath worked as a storyboard artist on), where instead of cats vs dogs, it is babies vs puppies. Unfortunately for McGrath, the storyline was already old in 2001, and he has only further exhausted the tired storyline.
Alec Baldwin is the obvious, and admittedly fantastic, choice as the voice of the baby executive who goes by the name “Boss Baby.” Truly, to his credit, much of the humor would not have landed correctly had he not been voicing the role. But Baldwin by his very nature has a quality to his elocution that makes it difficult at times for children to relate, but luckily the animators created a big-eyed, round-headed, animated baby that is pretty adorable, and hard to hate.
Elevated word choice and business jargon will be lost on the children, but the parents will surely enjoy the jokes. But when terms such as “severance package,” “yes man,” and “human resources” are needed to understand the punchline, the humor is likely completely lost on kids. As someone who attended a screening where the majority of audience members were below the age of nine, I can say with confidence that Dreamworks missed that section of the audience with this comedy. Not that the kids didn’t enjoy it, but they weren’t as ecstatic and enthused as I have seen with other films by the studio.
There is, of course. potty humor to please the little ones, like a dog-shaped bounce house that the lead characters escape from using a small hole under the tail. Or the golden toilet in the much coveted executive office for Baby Corps. But there’s only so much of this, that it seems an afterthought, rather than a focus to make the film appeal to kids.
Lisa Kudrow and Jimmy Kimmel are great as the voices of Mr. & Mrs. Templeton, blissfully unaware of the secrets plans of their suited baby. Tobey Maguire is a relatable narrator, with just enough youth in his voice that it doesn’t feel disconnected from the 7 year-old character of Timothy Templeton. Steve Buscemi voices a fascinating villain in Puppy Co. CEO, Francis Francis.
Bright colored sequences, that transcend reality, bring to life the imagination sequences of Timothy. But at times, it almost seems like too much for the film. All the time spent in imaginary worlds, could have been dedicated for further sequences with the other babies. Where were the secondary storylines? Why didn’t the other babies attend ‘Take Your Kids to Work Day’?
What the film lacks is a tightly-knit pack of baby characters (think 90s cartoon hit Rugrats). Although Baby Boss has a boardroom full, including Jimbo, Staci, and the triplets, they don’t appear nearly enough to justify even bothering to introduce them. Although it is clear that the primary relationship in the one between brothers, much of the time you’re just hoping that this fun cast of characters would grace the screen again.
That being said, I respect that Dreamworks focused on the issue of older siblings accepting newborn siblings. It sets a good, but odd example, of how children should act once their parents decide to expand the family. Most children won’t have talking, college-educated infants as their new baby brothers and sisters, so they most likely will have trouble understanding. The film also raises the question of ‘where do babies come from’, and while the film itself creates its own airy and bright baby factory up in the sky, there will most likely be an awkward conversation between kids and parents following the film.
Verdict: 2 out of 5
There is so much unrealized potential in the premise, that The Boss Baby is truly a disappointing effort. Yes, I probably haven’t laughed that much at a family movie in awhile. But I’m not the one who should have been laughing. Yet, it is commendable effort to teach kids about accepting a new sibling, so the movie is not without value. Certainly, it is something for parents to take their kids to during spring break.