The Boss Baby is, at its heart, a children’s movie. One that references Glengarry Glen Ross, speaks loudest about work/life imbalance and includes an uncomfortable exchange where a small child tells his baby brother he “won’t suck it.” Like, for an entire minute. Writer Michael McCullers pulls strange influences from Marla Frazee’s similarly-titled literature, most of which zoom over the heads of young audiences. Kids these days will understand deep-dive references to Lord Of The Rings, right? Even worse is an intended obsession with butt jokes (things going in and coming out), along with a Storks-like ignorance about where babies come from.
But hey, look! An infant in a business suit! Just ignore the other aspects of this animated puzzler and go ga-ga for some mini-Banana Republic duds.
Director Tom McGrath’s starts our adventure at Baby Corp., a factory where children appear on white, heavenly slides. We meet “Boss Baby” (voiced by Alec Baldwin), who doesn’t seem cut out for the cuddly route his rosy-cheeked brethren glide down. When he reaches a checkpoint that sets each baby on their designated path, Boss Baby is given a “Management” role instead of “Family.” This means he joins the cubicle workers who keep Baby Corp. running, not a loving family. “Management” heads are fed a special formula that keeps them in baby form their whole lives, as they climb the corporate ladder with ambitions of a corner office (complete with golden toilet) until retirement (never explained if this means death or what). Boss Baby is a hustling, company-devoted, pudgy-faced business buff who never knew the feeling of family – until now.
Still with me? Great. Because here’s where it gets weird(er).
Seven-year-old Tim (Miles Christopher Bakshi) lives a perfect only-child life. Mom (Lisa Kudrow) and Dad (Jimmy Kimmel) nurture their child’s over-active imagination, whether they be diving 20,000 leagues under the sea or fighting space aliens. Each night, Tim is allowed three stories, five hugs and an acoustic rendition of “Blackbird” (that Tim believes they wrote). Spoiled, much?
Then one day his “baby brother” pulls up in a taxi, fashioned like Barney Stinson and carrying a briefcase. You guessed right – it’s Boss Baby! After some fighting and a scary amount of parental negligence, Tim finds out that Boss Baby is on a secret mission for Baby Corp.. The evil CEO of Puppy Co. (Francis E. Francis, voiced by Steve Buscemi) plans to steal all the love that babies used to receive with a new breed of pooch, one so adorable that babies would become obsolete (wtf). Tim’s parents work for Puppy Co., so a deal is struck. Boss Baby and Tim must work together if their lives are to become normal once again, which brings them to Las Vegas, Nevada amidst pet conventioneers and Elvis impersonators. And rocket ships filled with puppies. And so, SO much more parental negligence.
A movie that pushes an anti-puppy agenda? You’ve lost me.
As Tobey Maguire narrates The Boss Baby (voicing older Tim), he details a slow spiral into forgettable child-first filmmaking. An ideology that doesn’t treat its audience with storytelling respect, only visual gags that will hopefully keep little ones entertained (they didn’t, made obvious by the small child who yelled at her mother numerous times about leaving my screening). Anecdotes like Boss Baby farting powder in rhythm with a suit-up montage beat, or Boss Baby’s co-conspirators fighting a cross-dressing mongoloid nanny (no Mrs. Doubtfire). You won’t even make it two minutes without a pacifier-in-the-butt joke, because The Boss Baby offers little more intrigue than a noisy rattle. Drool humor, diaper companies named “Poopsies” and the unquestioned fact that Boss Baby is never seen without business attire. Children deserve better, but are fed bottom-barrel morsels.
Alec Baldwin’s baby Jack Donaghy spews canned food and Management 101 theories with some comedic regard, but nothing children will understand. His slave to the grind loves memos, calls business meetings and delegates like a Richard Branson protégé, more worried about promotions than home life. Does your six-year-old understand cubicle mindsets? No. Will he/she laugh as Boss Baby deals with “yes” men (triplets from another family) and Stacey’s terrible note-taking (because she can’t read)? Probably (granted, I did). That doesn’t make these lofty tirades about business practices any more relatable, though. Imaginative fights against pirates provide artistic release, then it’s back to work as Boss Baby writes another meticulously worded memo. Action at its damn finest.
McCullers and McGrath chain themselves to the weirdest bits, be it a knock-off Gandalf clock that calls Tim a “halfling” every morning, or repeated attempts to shrug off any birds and bees talk. Don’t get me wrong – Wizzy, Tim’s talking clock, is the funniest character in all of The Boss Baby. Yet, even if we’re to understand that Tim’s imagination could be exaggerating details like Boss Baby’s taxi arrival, there’s such a lax attempt to storify family dynamics and new-sibling power struggles. Scenes favor either children or the adults who brought them, furthering an idea that no common ground can be shared by these viewers (a total lie).
Then again, this is a movie that names companies Baby Corp. and Puppy Co., so why the f#&k should we ask for more?
The Boss Baby is a befuddling, sometimes chuckle-worthy, mostly ill-toned dive into a children’s concept laced with workplace toxicity. Alec Baldwin’s voice brings to life a tiny tot who only gives cookies to closers (groan), despite kiddies having no idea what a “closer” is. That’s fine. Movies should appeal to the masses – but not when this future babysitter tool has nothing else to offer (except a weird binky-sucking headtrip). There’s so much anal-fixation, midlife-crisis-evoking, how-the-hell-is-this-a-child’s-movie provocation to unpack, even more than what’s glossed over above. Just hope you’re in the slim demographic this film aims for, and then convince me this audience even exists.
The Boss Baby is a movie made for few audiences, inconceivably inept in its ability to blend adult references with children's immaturity.