Directors: Hendel Butoy, Tom McGrath
Writers: Michael McCullers, Marla Frazee (based on the book by)
Stars: Alec Baldwin, Steve Buscemi, Jimmy Kimmel
Tom McGrath’s Boss Baby is a visually alluring experience that ultimately doesn’t have a very captivating story and falls disappointingly short on laughs. It features a pretty excellent cast, spearheaded by Alec Baldwin and Tobey Maguire, and essentially revolves around sharing the love (The Beatles would be proud) and a seven year old with an overactive imagination, who takes serious umbrage at his upstart newborn brother disrupting his peaceful existence.
That’s really how things start in this one. McGrath conveys to viewer early on just how unreliable a narrator Tim (Tobey Maguire) is, as the young boy gushes about his fantastical adventures with his family, the world around him literally changing to reflect the fanciful happenings he’s describing. And so, when the newborn ‘Boss Baby’ (Alec Baldwin) enters the fray, walking up the driveway in a remarkably well fitted suit and clutching a briefcase, it’s fair to say that young Tim is projecting his imagination to explain the situation (there’s a brief glimpse of his mothers baby bump). Tim isn’t best pleased with the new arrival, who has a short but visually appetising scene up in the heavens of ‘Baby Corp’, slipping and sliding through a gleaming assembly line for newborns, before landing in a sprawling office.
The general gist of the wider story is that Tim is upset with having to share his parents attention, whilst his baby brother goads him with his hidden intelligence way beyond his years. He’s been sent down on a secret mission by Baby Corp to garner as much information on a new breed of puppy that threatens to upset the love/attention equilibrium between children, pets and parents. What follows is a battle of wills between the two with Tim doing everything in his power to rumble the talking, baby 007, though failing miserably. I’ll admit there was one particular chase scene involving a squad of babies around this point that was actually quite good and was one of the better moments in the film.
Eventually the two from a grudging alliance in the face of the new Puppy Co threat, but mainly because Boss Baby tells Tim that he’ll leave him to his paradisiacal, only child, existence afterwards if they succeed. The film then transforms into a classic mismatched buddy style, with the pair falling into the CEO of Puppy Co’s dastardly trap during a ‘take the kids to work’ day. Francis Francis (Steve Buscemi), you see, was a one time legendary boss in the world of Baby Corp and is close to unveiling the ‘Forever Puppy’, a revenge fuelled attack on his previous employers, needing only Boss Baby’s magic formula to add the final touches to his creation. Once he takes this, it leaves the latter in a precarious fight against time to avoid transforming into an actual baby.
The pair end up hitching a ride on a flight full of Elvis impersonators to Las Vegas in one final attempt to stop Francis Francis from releasing the Forever Puppy’s via a rocket ship (I’m sure I recall that correctly, though admittedly, my attention was wandering majorly by this point); save Tim’s now kidnapped parents (or are they just on a business trip? Did the Las Vegas trip even happen? Lord knows?) and save Boss Baby from his nightmare of being sacked from his position at Baby Corp and becoming a literal drooling, giggling, newborn. Again, if this sounds a little fanciful, do remind yourself that this is an animated kids film and it’s supposed to be a jilted seven year olds imaginary take on events.
The strong cast was a real strong point for this film amongst many weaknesses. Alec Baldwin was outstanding as the devious Boss Baby and his voice definitely added to the character enormously. Toby Maguire was also very believable as the seven year old Tim (remember this guy is 41) and the two leads played off each other very well. Meanwhile; Lisa Kudrow, Jimmy Kimmel and Steve Buscemi were all decent enough in their relative cameo roles as the mother, father and Francis Francis respectively. The fact I’m even calling their parts cameos should give a sense of how much the two leads dominate the screen time.
Now from a purely visual standpoint, this film gets a 10/10, especially during Tim’s spontaneous, psychosis like bursts of imagination. Unfortunately though we don’t judge films solely on their visuals merits. I understand this film is not marketed to my age demographic and I’m perhaps being a little harsh. It’s a children’s film which is fine. Moana, Kubo and the Two Strings and Zootopia are three films within the last year alone that share the same target demographic however and they all featured enjoyable, engaging stories that could captivate younger viewers whilst also having enough under the surface gloss to hold the gaze of adults too. Boss Baby doesn’t have this, sadly, it really doesn’t and I lost interest around the half-way point.
It’s not a brutally bad film and there was certainly some fun moments scattered throughout, but I’d really only recommend this to families or people with young kids.