‘The Boss Baby’ makes a mess in the theater

March 25, 2017, 12:00 a.m.
'The Boss Baby' makes a mess in the theater
Alec Baldwin voices the eponymous Boss Baby (Courtesy of DreamWorks Animation).

What better way to celebrate the end of awards season than a movie about talking babies in suits?

March brings us a seemingly promising yet ultimately disappointing new animated flick — “The Boss Baby.” The film stars Alec Baldwin as the titular character and follows seven-year-old Tim Templeton as he navigates his life upon the arrival of his new baby brother, who just happens to be a baby who’s actually a boss — a literal boss from the company Baby Corp. — in a suit and everything. Boss Baby’s mission: take down rival company Puppy Co. before adorable puppies take over the balance of love between babies and puppies. At first it seems like a cute premise, and even the idea of Alec Baldwin as a baby is honestly funny. Now’s the point where I’d say, “Spoiler ahead!” but unfortunately there really isn’t much to spoil — because while the premise is there, the content is not.

Most of the movie is spent with Tim and Boss Baby as they bicker and bicker … and bicker. A lot of gags and throwaway jokes are included to fill up these complex chase scenes which, while small feats of animation wonder, didn’t do much to interest me. “The Boss Baby” is centered heavily around the dynamic between siblings, so maybe it’s because I’m an only child, but I didn’t understand or come to fully appreciate the rapport between Tim and Boss Baby. The visuals were great, the jokes were relatively funny and the voice acting was solid, so why was I struggling? I’ll be honest — I tried really hard to enjoy the movie, but I couldn’t get into it.

When it comes down to it, “The Boss Baby” is downright too predictable. Tim and Boss Baby go on a wild ride to track down the CEO of Puppy Co. and inevitably succeed. The end. The arguments between the two drag on forever for no particular reason, and Boss Baby to a certain point felt too distant of a character. I wasn’t able to figure out whether it was Tim or Boss Baby’s narrative, and by focusing on both characters, the plot became heavily muddled, leading me to question the logic of some of even the simplest of plot points. The idea of Baby Corp. also just seemed a little out there —  granted, “The Boss Baby” is derived from a children’s book, so maybe that’s directly pulled from the story. Even simply the idea of Boss Baby himself is a little odd — a baby who’s actually a C-suite executive in a company that manufactures babies to give to families but keeps some who live forever as employees, never to truly have a loving family? If you felt at all weird reading that, you understand how I feel. It’s a little disconcerting and a little uncomfortable, especially for children’s fiction.

On the aesthetic side, the images and animation are quite wonderful. There are some very impressive sequences involving more of a 2D style that are supposed to show what Tim is imagining in his mind, and the chase scenes, however superfluous, are visually elaborate and interesting. Similarly, the overarching theme of “The Boss Baby” is that everyone should love and accept each other, and everyone is both deserving of and needs love. Aww. Cheesy? Yes. A little extensive considering the limited content of the film? Yes. But harmful to the film? Not at all — and, mind you, this is a message that wouldn’t hurt to be spread a few more times over to the world at large.

Unfortunately, even with a great cast and a unique plot, the movie is unable to deliver the complex, well-developed script that audiences demand of today’s films. “The Boss Baby” has an endearing message and is a cute, visually appealing film, but all in all, it’s a lot of fluff and not very much substance. If you’re looking for easy animated appeal for a small child, “The Boss Baby” will provide two hours’ worth of baby-fat-jiggling comedic fun, but otherwise, look elsewhere for a weekend flick.

“The Boss Baby” opens in theaters on March 31, 2017.


Contact Olivia Popp at opopp ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Olivia Popp was a managing editor of Arts & Life for volumes 251 through 254 and the editor-at-large for The Stanford Daily's board of directors for volumes 254 and 255. She hails from Michigan and enjoys science fiction TV shows, independent film festivals, and the Bay Area theater scene.

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