THE BOSS BABY
Director: Tom McGrath
Cast: The voices of Miles Bakshi, Alec Baldwin, Jimmy Kimmel, Lisa Kudrow, Steve Buscemi, Tobey Maguire
MPAA Rating: (for some mild rude humor)
Running Time: 1:37
Release Date: 3/31/17
Review by Mark Dujsik | March 31, 2017
Why would anyone make a movie as decisively weird as The Boss Baby, only to chicken out in the final minutes? Look, "weird" is fine. "Weird" is even good. "Weird" gets us out of the rut of the mundane, the usual, the formula, and the cliché. Have the courage to see "weird" through to the end, though. Do that at least.
That's not to say that The Boss Baby only falls flat with its cop-out of a resolution—a tacked-on explanation of all the weirdness that has come before it, following an already-irritating denouement that drags out the inevitable conclusion of the story. No, this is a movie that runs its single-idea concept into the ground pretty quickly. The premise is this: What would it be like if a baby wore a suit and talked like a businessman? Obviously, this movie was made before the most recent election, so one can forgive the filmmakers for the fact that reality beat them to the punch.
Anyway, the baby, named Boss Baby and voiced by Alec Baldwin, does indeed wear a suit, complete with sock garters below his diaper, while carrying a briefcase containing sharpened crayons and a bottle. He doesn't talk at first, because Boss Baby is putting on a ruse for the family that has taken him in. He arrives at the house in a taxi, dancing his way up the walkway while his soon-to-be older brother Tim (voice of Miles Bakshi) watches in confusion.
See, Tim has an active imagination, which leads him to believe that the baby in the suit is some sort of vision on his part. No, the baby is real. The suit is real. The briefcase is real. Boss Baby's new parents (voices of Jimmy Kimmel and Lisa Kudrow) can see it all, and they don't think it's strange in the slightest.
There's something vaguely amusing about this ignorance on the parents' part, and the few other amusing moments feature Tim's experience with Boss Baby being juxtaposed with the parents' perspective on events. There's a frantic chase scene in the backyard, featuring Tim trying to keep evidence of his little brother's meeting with some infant business cronies from the babies, and then we see that the scene is just a calm bit of play with a baby-sized car. Since Boss Baby and his scheming are real, this, of course, contradicts everything else that happens here.
There's little consistency to the premise. I'm fully aware that this sounds like a ridiculous thing to level against a movie that revolves around a business-baby, who has descended from Heaven to stop a new breed of puppy from overtaking the available quotient of lovability from the rightful place of babies.
That, by the way, is the actual plot of Michael McCullers' screenplay (based on the book by Marla Frazee). Boss Baby has come from Baby Corp., a heavenly corporate office where babies run the business of bringing babies into the world (There's a throwaway line about China that's in really bad taste). His goal is to stop Puppy Co. from launching a new line of puppies on the world—literally launching, since the climax involves a puppy-filled rocket. I have mentioned this is weird, right?
Some sort of consistency is necessary, though, and yes, even a second time, that still sounds absurd. Without it, we're just watching a baby in a suit act like a tough, no-nonsense businessperson. That joke doesn't last, so McCullers throws in some other gags here, too, including a scene of fake projectile vomiting and a puff of powder being blown out of Boss Baby's behind. There's also a moment in which Tim and Boss Baby take the rear exit out of an inflatable dog that is, disturbingly, anatomically correct.
Obviously, the attempt to cram some sincerity into the story comes from the way Tim and Boss Baby go from adversaries to grudging allies to brothers. It's a fable about siblings feeling overlooked when a new family member comes along, and that could be sweet and thoughtful in a movie that actually cares about this subject. This movie does a lot of talking about the matter. Its heart is in being weird for the sake of being weird, before it drives the ultimate point home in an epilogue that makes us think that Boss Baby doesn't even trust itself to tell its story.
Copyright © 2017 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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