DreamWorks Animation’s first effort of 2017 is “The Boss Baby”, generously adapted from Marla Frazee’s 2010 picture book about a baby with a briefcase who randomly shows-up to the house of a husband and wife. The concept is certainly out-there, and could’ve been taken in a load of directions. My main question going in was how the filmmakers were going build a coherent feature out of such a wacky premise.
The answer? They dissect the do-do out of it. “The Boss Baby” is about as subtle as a full diaper. So in order to enjoy it you’ve simply got to play along. And I tried – oh baby, did I try.
7-year old Timmy is an only child – and he likes it that way. Mom and Dad (voiced by Lisa Kudrow and Jimmy Kimmel) shower him with love and affection. But all that’s about to change. It’s this well-worn ‘new baby in the family’ formula that the storyline runs with.
Just as Warner Bros. did in “Storks”, which was released just this past September, DreamWorks conjures-up their own idea for how babies are made. And similar to “Storks”, it’s with an overly-adorable factory, shipping and delivery process.
The baby shows-up at Timmy’s house and is instantly made the center of attention by his parents. However, Timmy soon catches the infant talking in complete sentences, with an adult voice and using the phone. Oh, and he’s wearing a business suit and carrying a briefcase. The baby, whose name truly is The Boss Baby, is voiced by Alec Baldwin. It’s good casting – for such a macho, recognizable voice to come-out this mature newborn – but Baldwin can do this work in his sleep. He was much more impressive as a tattooed St. Nick in DreamWorks’ 2012 “Rise of the Guardians”.
We eventually learn why The Boss Baby is who he is, and why he’s spending time with Timmy. And the reasoning is all very, very silly and overwhelmingly juvenile. DreamWorks tries to ensure that kids will have a good time by cramming the crayon-colored visuals down your throat, but it’s an obvious attempt to distract the audience away from the elementary script.
Young Timmy clearly has a vivid imagination. He should have shared some of that with “The Boss Baby” creative team. In their defense this was a tough challenge. “The Boss Baby” is a story about a little boy and his new baby brother – but its strength is its adult humor – the references to the corporate business world and some of Baldwin’s clever lines, as well as parental inside jokes – that children will not get. So for the kids, it’s frantic chase scene after frantic chase scene. There was very little laughter from the young crowd in the theater that I was at. Kids will not be begging their parents to see this a second time.
Outside of the inspired score, co-composed by Hans Zimmer, “The Boss Baby” feels very average – in animation, story, execution and impact. We’re coming-off of 2016 – the Best Year ever for animated movies. DreamWorks Animation can certainly do excellent work – proven again last year with “Kung Fu Panda 3” and especially “Trolls” (so happy “Trolls 2” is in the works for 2020). But following a year with the likes of “Zootopia”, “Kubo and the Two Strings”, “The Little Prince”, “My Life as a Zucchini” and “Sing”, which all took the possibilities and executions of animated films to new levels and realms, the bar has been raised. Studios need to ensure that their projects are up to the challenge. This bland sibling rivalry story is not.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “The Boss Baby” gets a C.
Running Time: 97 min.