Directed by: Tom McGrath
Premise: An animated film. An infant (voice of Alec Baldwin) who wears a suit and carries a briefcase teams up with a seven year old boy (voice of Miles Christopher Bakshi) to foil a plot by a pet company to redirect all of the world’s love from babies to dogs.
What Works: The Boss Baby is at its best when it plays to adults. There are a few smart moments about the way a new baby overtakes the daily life of a family and grown up viewers, especially those with children, ought to find this amusing. There are also some perceptive moments in which the older sibling feels marginalized by his parents fussing over the baby. Much of this occurs within the first third of The Boss Baby and this material provides a handful of laughs and a few resonant moments from the seven-year-old boy’s point of view.
What Doesn’t: There is a difference between children’s movies and family movies. Children’s movies are like the programs on Nickelodeon; they are made specifically for young people. Family movies are made to appeal to both children and their parents; they are otherwise mainstream movies that appeal to a wide audience. The filmmakers of The Boss Baby don’t seem to know which kind of picture they planned to make and so the film is a jarring mess that is the worst of both worlds. The material is too mature to be a kiddie flick and too childish to appeal to a family audience. There is a popular presumption that movies for children and families have to be simplistic. That’s partially true insofar as stories for young audiences must present their ideas in recognizable images and graspable stories. But filmmakers working within those limitations can deal with complicated and emotionally heavy subject matter. Movies such as The Fox and the Hound and Inside Out dealt with sophisticated concepts in ways that were accessible to children and adult viewers and were emotionally resonant with both audiences. The Boss Baby is nothing like those pictures. The movie’s premise is stupid and its ideas are insipid. The characters of this movie operate under the idea that there is a finite amount of love in the world and they have to stop the machinations of a sinister corporate figure in order to keep babies from becoming unloved. Even a child could see the idiocy of that concept but for most of the movie the filmmakers don’t challenge it and the story isn’t about undermining that central idea. Instead, the titular baby and his pre-adolescent companion go about uncovering the corporate plot to replace babies in an adventure that is uninspired at best. It isn’t until the very end of the movie, in a slapped-on denouement, that the characters realize the folly of their ways. This undermines the existence of the whole movie and draws attention to what is painfully obvious throughout The Boss Baby—the whole story is built on a false dilemma. The movie is really uninteresting. For a kid’s film, The Boss Baby is too long and not basic enough. For everyone else, it’s too basic and the jokes are lame. Instead of landing on the sweet spot between adult and pre-adolescent humor, The Boss Baby falls into the crack between them with comedy bits that aren’t funny. As an animated feature, The Boss Baby looks terrible. The images are cheap and without detail or texture. This is well below the quality we’ve come to expect from a feature film especially one from DreamWorks Animation which has produced such great titles as Shrek and Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon.
Bottom Line: The Boss Baby is lousy entertainment that will not appeal to children or their parents. The film is unnecessarily stupid and cheaply animated. It’s the kind of thing that ought to have gone directly to DVD. Families deserve better than this.
Episode: #642 (April 9, 2017)