As a director, Tom McGarth has a hit-and-miss track record, including the wildly inconsistent Madagascar films, the refreshingly original Megamind, and the legendarily disappointing Shrek the Third. Unfortunately, McGarth again wets the bed with The Boss Baby. Even for a cartoon, the film offers a bafflingly convoluted premise with surprisingly little exposition and no laughs.
Tim Templeton (Miles Christopher Bakshi) is a spoiled, imaginative seven-year-old who lives the perfect suburban life, basking in the persistent (and somewhat unnerving) displays of affection from his clingy parents while seemingly ignoring his mother’s noticeable baby bump. When his parents (voiced by Lisa Kudrow and Jimmy Kimmel) ask Tim how he’d feel about having a sibling, Tim simply replies “I’m good.” The very next morning, a taxi pulls up to the front of the house and out jumps a suit-sporting baby who carries a briefcase and sounds just like Alec Baldwin. Tim’s parents then introduce Tim to his new baby brother (who, it turns out, is actually on a mission to ensure babies don’t lose out to puppies in the war for the world’s love). Inevitably, the two hash it out for their parents’ attention.
I found the initial introduction quite troublesome. First, Tim’s parents introduce the Boss Baby without giving him a name. In fact, he’s only ever referred to as the Boss Baby until the very last scene. Second, the mother’s baby bump disappears, which seems to imply that the Boss Baby is their offspring. However, earlier on we see the Boss Baby’s origins where he and hundreds of other babies magically materialize onto a Ford-esque assembly line in the sky before they’re split between “Family” life and “Management” life. Is this the manifestation of Tim’s overactive imagination attempting to process where babies come from? Could be, but the film doesn’t do a clear job distinguishing between what’s real and what’s not. Like a diaper, this ineptitude grows to become more pronounced after the brothers decide to put their differences aside and work together.
The backyard scene from the trailers, wherein Tim and the Boss Baby duke it out for possession of a tape that could expose the baby as more than just a baby, highlights the dramatic differences between objective reality and reality as Tim sees it (we pull back from Tim’s high-speed pursuit to the parent’s perspective and see that the Boss Baby is lazily dragging Tim along the grass). So what then is the audience supposed to believe? Are we to believe that the Boss Baby truly does work for an otherworldly business known as Baby Corp. and that the world is indeed falling more in love with puppies and less in love with babies? Even early on it becomes apparent that DreamWorks hadn’t completed the basic world building.
It would be easier to go along with The Boss Baby‘s imaginary story if there were laughs along the way. Sadly, I found myself shaking my head and/or wincing at the jokes instead. It’s hard to imagine many children (or adults for that matter) laughing about how great memos are. It is easy, however, to imagine a lot of children screaming in terror at how shockingly frequent The Boss Baby regurgitates horror movie techniques like dark lighting, strange sounds, and scary costumes.
The Boss Baby is now playing.
Did you like The Boss Baby or did you pass it up for Ghost in the Shell? Let us know in the comments!