Rated PG for some mild rude humor
Screenplay by Michael McCullers, based on the book by Marla Frazee
Directed by Tom McGrath
Starring Miles Christopher Bakshi, Alec Baldwin, Steve Buscemi, Jimmy Kimmel, Lisa Kudrow, Tobey Maguire and more
Grade: Two and a half stars
“The Boss Baby” is both more and less weird than the trailers make it seem.
The movie, which follows a dictatorial, suit-wearing baby who sounds like Alec Baldwin, makes it clear that the plot exists thanks to a large dose of the older brother’s imagination. That makes the entire thing more whimsical and relatable – the same story sounds much better coming from a 7-year-old than it does from a 37-year-old – but can sometimes lead any adults in the audience to worry about just where the fantasy line ends for the older brother. Battling a very short person who sounds like a grown man is one thing, but outside of the fantasy he’s just a normal baby. For people not in the fantasy, what’s actually going on?
The basic concept of the movie is that babies and puppies are in an eternal battle, because there’s only so much love to go around and both organizations want a bigger piece of it. The “Boss Baby” of the title is literally that, since babies who don’t laugh when tickled are re-directed to management instead of being sent to families. The Boss Baby, however, has been temporarily placed with a family so he can find out the secret weapon PuppyCorp is developing.
It’s actually a fairly reasonable, imaginative explanation a 7-year-old might come up with to explain his feelings of hurt and confusion about a new baby brother who seems to be taking over the family. The movie actually deals with that concept on a fairly thorough level, systematically demolishing the entire concept that people only have a certain amount of love to give. This leads to several touching moments, especially in the movie’s last third, and the movie as a whole would probably be quite meaningful to any older siblings who have ever resented their younger siblings.
But the movie also makes it clear that most of the adventure is an elaboration of normal things that are happening in the older brother’s real world. While that sometimes adds to the humor – the boy clinging to the back of the baby’s speeding car is even funnier when it cuts to him being slowly dragged along behind a baby toy propelled by foot power – it can also be concerning.
At least twice during the movie, all I could think as I watched a scene unfold was “he just nearly killed his little brother.” During other scenes, while the boy and his brother were wandering around in traffic and even more dangerous places, I was distracted by my absolute horror that none of the nearby adults were doing anything. Shouldn’t at least one of them have noticed what was going on? They leave a loophole that possibly explains this all away at the end of the movie, but it didn’t comfort me at all while I was watching it.
This only happens off and on, in between the usual Dreamworks poop jokes, ridiculous action, and occasional genuinely touching moment. But I, for one, could have done without it.