'Boss Baby' fun for grown-ups
"The Boss Baby" derives its premise from the notion that when new babies show up in the household, they render parents into slavishly devoted employees with their demands and fits. Babies are like bosses, but more satirically, bosses are like babies, right?
That metaphor is explored in Marla Frazee's children's book, with a boss baby outfitted in a suit, complete with buttoned bottom flap, and now that's been transported to the screen, with Alec Baldwin voicing the titular boss.
In theory, the idea seems about as interesting as "Baby Geniuses," but in execution, the film is surprisingly fun and clever. Written by Michael McCullers, it's almost too clever for its own good — only adults are going to the appreciate nuances of the jokes and wordplay about corporate middle-management culture, with all of its memos and water coolers.
That content is offset with a wild and creative visual design. The film is directed by Tom McGrath, who directed the "Madagascar" and "Megamind" films and got his start in animation on "The Ren & Stimpy Show." There's a fluidness to the action sequences, especially the imaginative fantasy sequences of young Tim Templeton (Miles Bakshi), the boy whose home the Boss Baby invades. It's a visual treat from start to finish, expansive in scope and multitudinous in its design influences.
Though Frazee's book offers the metaphor of the Boss Baby, McCullers fleshes out a full action-adventure story for Boss Baby and Tim. Turns out this Boss Baby isn't here to stay, he's just on a mission from BabyCorp to infiltrate PuppyCo. via his new parents and investigate their new product launch. Turns out BabyCorp is concerned that their market share of parental love is tipping too far into the puppy realm, and they need an ambitious young executive to turn things around.
But this corporate scheming is simply the backdrop for what becomes a sibling love story. Tim and Boss Baby start out as rivals, especially when he discovers that his little be-suited younger brother is actually a swaggering executive with the dulcet tones of Baldwin, outfitted in little sock garters, with a penchant for sushi and espresso. The two strike a deal: if Tim helps Boss Baby with the PuppyCo. mission, Boss Baby gets his corner office, and Tim gets his parents' full attention back.
Through their misadventures and antics, the two learn to work together and love each other and discover that siblings are actually fun for things like imagination playtime and wild harebrained plots to save their parents from the dastardly PuppyCo. CEO Francis Francis (Steve Buscemi). It's the kind of sibling love that one looks back on in fondness, as this film does in bookends, with older Tim voiced by Tobey Maguire.
Most of the movie's laughs are from the cognitive dissonance of Baldwin's voice coming from a large-eyed, adorable blonde baby, and there are some great visual gags — his mouth twists into a pout that is veritably Trumpian — and references that the film incorporates. "Cookies are for closers!" he barks, harkening to Baldwin's memorable speech from "Glengarry Glen Ross." "The Boss Baby" is great fun for parents, but it remains to be seen if kids will get it at all.
'THE BOSS BABY'
2½ stars out of 4
Cast: Alec Baldwin, Jimmy Kimmel, Lisa Kudrow, Miles Bakshi, Steve Buscemi, Tobey Maguire
Directed by Tom McGrath
Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes
Rated PG for some mild rude humor.